Category Archives: Gamification

Health Technology Solutions and Wearables–Extending the Reach

The last year has been focused on—if not bombarded by— ‘wearable technology.’ The majority of the products and ideas have centered on healthcare and tracking. Even though notably absent as a primary point from the presentations delivered on Tuesday ( delivered a piece on the issue), the Apple Watch will take on some of the health tracking output that we have come to expect in our devices. There are a number of apps and devices now readily available (for a small fee, of course) to track, analyze, and monitor all of our activity from food consumer to running a lap on the local track.

Should health technology solutions be disruptive?

The interesting aspect of all of this is the way the solutions can be categorized. The majority of solutions (mostly devices) have aligned with an attempt to integrate more naturally into the user’s life such as using a watch, alarm app, bracelet (Jawbone Up Band and Fitbit), or ring to capture and integrate with data and content. These pieces of technology have centered on NOT being disruptive to the lifestyle of their users in an effort to seamlessly become a part of their day.  But why, when we have spent so much time integrating our smartphones into our daily lives, do we now choose to ignore them for the sake of a new watch, bracelet or ring?

Disruption for healthy fun

Actually, we haven’t. Something new (well, relatively new) has started to take hold of the notable health-tracking playing field. For those of us on the iOS platform we are a little late to the game as it was just released in July of this year, but Android users have been embracing the game-changer, Ingress, since the general release in December 2013. Downloaded over 5 million times, the Ingress game has driven users off the couch to go capture “portals” in the live world. Portals are housed at various places deemed worthy; interesting stores, unique architecture, hyper-local spots, or a community gathering place, for example. The game is extremely addictive and new users beware: you may find yourself needing extra time to make it to your destination as you eagerly seek new portals on your walk.

This innovative application has targeted a new strategy for user interaction: be as disruptive as possible. Yet, it may just end up being the strongest motivator for inspiring to get moving and tracking their progress. Though not an original objective for the game, the possibilities are vast, and finding that critical way to combine intense interest and healthy habits could lead to greater success stories.

Another example of this type of health solution is the app “Superhero Workout.” The idea is that you are interacting with your smartphone throughout your workout, not just turning it on to monitor progress and provide an output of the results upon completion of the activity. Your device will act as your inspiration and motivation to get better, faster, stronger through active engagement and fun (and the possibility of achieving Superhero greatness, of course).

So, what health technology solutions should we be delivering?

The most critical element at play here is a simple one and hasn’t really changed over time. Give the user what they want and they will integrate into their life. Whatever the medium or the output (device/app/wearable), if it is something users want to embrace then they will ensure it is seamlessly or disruptively part of their everyday. We just need to deliver effective (and fun) solutions that will meet the demand.


HxRefactored Health and Digital Conference – Brooklyn, New York

HxRefactored by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0

HxRefactored by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0

The HxRefactored Conference, hosted by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0, was held in the Marriott in Brooklyn, New York, just a few subway stops away from the bustling city streets of the ULTRA Health Technology office in Soho. Two days of workshops and sessions centred on UX, design and development, with the focus on the collaboration and integration of designers and developers. Typically these attendees would be in conferences dedicated to their specialisation; the HxRefactored event bridged this gap.

Half of Day 1 was focused on workshops for Gamification and user-centred design (the cost of the workshops were incremental to the attendee ticket pass to the conference); Day 2 was a full day of the typical panel and presentation sessions.

Most of the sessions were broken out in 1/2 hour segments which created a bit of a rush to go through meaningful content and Q&A. The Q&A really drove the conversation and prompted a greater depth of detail on the topics. It was mostly through the question and answer element that attendees had an opportunity to vocalise what really interested them. Plus, time allocation to go to the next session didn’t really exist. You had to plan ahead. It was reminiscent of SXSW in that an attendee had to make difficult decisions about session attendance: a lot of conflicts.

The sessions were categorised so that an attendee would know the broad scope of what would be presented, i.e. Design Behaviour Change, Design Vision and Innovation, and Development Unstructured Health Data. While helpful, these categorisations could be seen as diverting attention, from the original scope of integration. It was through the content of the presentations where the true blending occurred and topics were not defined so narrowly by their path in a majority of the cases.

The entire conference focus, as driven by both the session topics and the audience questions, could be summarised as follows:

  • Wearables (notable interest across many of the health conferences)
  • EHR (electronic health records; a surprising focal point through many of the sessions)
  • Health apps (beyond the usual tracking and stats)
  • Food (sustainability and health-oriented)
  • Process (testing methodologies and case studies were prevalent)
  • Government support and impact
  • Patient-focused (keen interest in making technology that appeals to the patients)
  • Security

Day 1

On Day 1 the first sessions opened after the workshops events and I kicked off the conference by attending the Healthy Design for People session with Elizabeth Bacon from Find Wellness and Lorraine Chapman from Macadamian. They had a full hour with Q&A which allowed for some very insightful approaches to the UX and testing process. The key messages were that you ‘don’t need a ton of data points,’ ‘quick and inexpensive’ can still bring about some important outcomes and iterative, lean methodology is the way to go. This is something we fervently believe and put into action every day at ULTRA Health Technologies, so it was easy to agree.

For example, to conduct user testing using a qualitative method:

  • 4-6 HCPs (consider senior vs junior levels when selecting)
  • 8-12 Consumers


Not Recommended

EthnographicGroup Research Studies
1:1 interviewsTask Analysis
Diary Studies(interesting article describing this process is here:

Another key element is persona development; knowing your audience is a key variable to any successful deliverable:

  • define behavioral variables
  • map each data point
  • observe clusters
  • reflect on proto personas
  • refine, reduce, specify
  • add goals
  • flesh out presentation

I was also very impressed, as were the others in the room, with the journey mapping process. Elizabeth and Lorraine provided specific details on their internal processes to creating the optimal journey based on their user group(s).

I was originally planning to attend the Inspiration for Your App session but this became unavailable when there wasn’t a speaker available. This was a bit of a running theme; speakers had to drop out of the conference in a few sessions because of personal matters. Some managed to be covered and others became more of a generic Q&A panel session.

The last session I attended for the day was Blue Button: Working with Health Data to Empower Patients by Thomas Black, Department of Veteran Affairs. His powerful message of ‘Data is the lifeblood of healthcare’ is hardly arguable. It drives not only the B2B agenda, but also consumers want to know their own data. They want to have a better sense of what their data means to them on a personal level. Once patients have entrusted their data to a particular insurance company or healthcare provider, their desire to switch is low. This loyalty is driven by an aversion to the chaotic idea of change.

Sessions tended to be standing room only

Sessions tended to be standing room only

Day 2

After the opening brief keynotes, HIT is a Team Sport by Allscripts (via Stanley Crane) was the first session to kick-off Day 2. The focus was mostly on the sandbox environment provided by Allscripts to the development community. This was a bit of a running theme as well in the conference; everyone now sees the vision of open collaboration with outside developers for innovation. This was discussed in the How to Scale: Building the World’s Largest (and fittest) Community with Kevin Callahan from MapMyFitness (, @mapmyfitness). We heard some interesting stats such as there had been over 15 million workouts logged in the last 30 days as of May 13th but the majority of the focus was on partnerships and development opportunities.

My favorite presentation of the day was delivered by Nick Crocker (@nickcrocker) of @myfitnesspal. My lack of love for PowerPoint presentation delivery was subdued by Mr. Crocker’s usage of the software. Minimalistic and used only to enhance the speech he was providing, we got an inside look into the daily struggle and the battle to overcome the barriers of a typical fitness app user. ‘Life is the barrier,’ he said. ‘Vices, easy outs, sickness and travel.’ MyFitnessPal is seeking to rise above the standard ‘reminder’ messaging that infiltrates our current portable smartphones and make interactions be more of a “realistic portrayal of what a real human would do” such as a personal trainer or military boot camp officer might provide (yelling, and intense demeanor is optional).

Some other highlights from day 2 include an important topic that is of critical important to me, and to the presenter, Megan Grocki (@megangrocki ) from Mad*Pow on the social responsibility of the food system. Let food be thy medicine: improving healthy by fixing the food system delivered an on-point message: health deterioration shows a directly proportional relationship to the deterioration of our food systems. Regulation, reporting, access are all fundamental issues plaguing our world and we have the capabilities in the digital space to impact and influence change. Megan provided some solutions such as Kel Smith’s (@kelsmith) Aisle Won project ( connecting the providers of healthy, affordable food to people who need it.

Additionally the topic of EHR was mentioned several times; an example of this dialogue was through insights from Gregory Moore (@GJMooreMDPhD) at the Geisenger Health System on Strategies for Start-ups to Partner with Healthcare Systems. The main takeaway is that the delivery of a key, concise marketing opportunity will make or break the possibility of a partnership. Currently patient-friendly content is just not available. Patients may have access to their charts, graphs and data and can engage with their HCPs to correct inaccurate information or become more knowledgeable. Anyone that has seen a pathology report or lab test results will know that the word ‘complex’ and ‘difficult to understand’ is an understatement. We can do better.

There are lots of opportunities to continue to address the unmet needs of healthcare professionals and patients in the healthcare digital space with plenty of resources at our disposal. It will be exciting to see what the next couple of years will bring in terms of innovation and advancement.

Game Mechanics for Facilitating Behaviour Change

Last week Nitro Digital attended ‘Digital Pharma Advances’ #pharmaconf to talk about Game Mechanics in healthcare and specifically around the topic of ‘adherence’. Entitled, ‘The Future of Healthcare will be Fun’ my central position is that game mechanics as a core component of digital tracking can help facilitate behaviour change in the long term. It’s pharma’s last blockbuster and well worth everyone’s consideration.

After a slightly false start (where the projector flatly refused to project my slides -not awkward) I really enjoyed talking, and certainly from my perspective, the audience certainly seemed to open to the ideas i wanted to share.

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide play computer games, and it’s becoming more and more mobile. Why can’t we leverage all that intrinsic motivation for actual physical benefit? As long as we don’t focus the patient on the illness, but on goals and moving forward, by utilising the reward mechanics within a story that connects people we’re moving along the right tracks.

I’m going to evolve the talk and do it again in the future, and have even established a hashtag as a platform for future discussion. Of course, there are many like it, but this is mine; #hcfun

It’s a fascinating topic and I’m always happy to chat about it. If you would like to know more or just fancy a discussion around this topic please pick up the phone, email, LI or Tweet me 😉