Let the sickcare games begin

The Holy Grail of sickcare is changing patient and sickcare professional behavior to address the quintuple aims: quality, cost, equitable access, experience and administrative waste.

Behavioral economists are recommending tactics like nudges and games.

Observing patterns and paying attention to what’s going on in the world is a key entrepreneurial attribute.

In case you missed it, as reported, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) is buying “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O) for $68.7 billion in the biggest gaming industry deal in history as global technology giants stake their claims to a virtual future.

The deal announced by Microsoft , its biggest-ever and set to be the largest all-cash acquisition on record, will bolster its firepower in the booming videogaming market where it takes on leaders Tencent (0700.HK) and Sony (6758.T).

In case you haven’t noticed, Microsoft has become one of the most powerful forces in sickcare.

With healthcare increasingly placing bets on artificial intelligence, Microsoft has formed a coalition with some of the nation’s top health and life sciences organizations to build and track new AI innovations.

The Artificial Intelligence Industry Innovation Coalition (AI3C) unites nine other big names alongside Microsoft: the Brookings Institution, Cleveland Clinic, Duke Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Novant Health, Plug and Play, Providence, the University of California, San Diego and the University of Virginia.

Senior executives from each organization on the AI3C board will help co-create new AI tools and follow AI use in the industry, aiming to address the business and socioeconomic barriers that block widespread adoption of the technologies.

So, when you connect the dots, don’t be surprised to see lots of gamified sickcare AI apps coming to your mobile devices.

There are several theoretical arguments for the application of gaming in sickcare. But, is there evidence that it works and, if so, who,what, when, where, why and how?

Here is an overview.

The current state of evidence supports that gamification can have a positive impact in health and wellbeing, particularly for health behaviours. However several studies report mixed or neutral effect. Findings need to be interpreted with caution due to the relatively small number of studies and methodological limitations of many studies (e.g., a lack of comparison of gamified interventions to non-gamified versions of the intervention).

When it comes to gamifying medical education,  these authors suggest that it is possible to improve learning outcomes in health professions education by using gamification, especially when employing game attributes that improve learning behaviours and attitudes towards learning. However, most studies lacked well-defined control groups and did not apply and/or report theory to understand underlying processes. Future research should clarify mechanisms underlying gamified educational interventions and explore theories that could explain the effects of these interventions on learning outcomes, using well-defined control groups, in a longitudinal way. In doing so, we can build on existing theories and gain a practical and comprehensive understanding of how to select the right game elements for the right educational context and the right type of student.

Of course, AI, let alone AI gamification, comes with its own baggage. Artificial intelligence algorithms are trained on web data, but medical information is less widely available and more complex, leading AI tools to produce inaccurate results when used in the health field, Wired reported Jan. 16.

The Alan Turing Institute published a report in 2020 that looked at how AI helped during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study’s findings showed that AI had little effect, as experts were faced with bias and lack of access to health data. The study also found that AI tools were flawed in detecting COVID-19 symptoms.

These findings showed a greater flaw with AI: that mixing data and algorithms is difficult to do in healthcare because of privacy concerns and outdated IT infrastructure, among other issues, Wired reported. 

AI has been good at performing highly accurate tasks, but has become stagnant as quality and quantity of data for AI applications is sparse.

We need to learn more about the effectiveness of gaming in sickcare and education. Microsoft knows that. Students enrolled in media programs know that. Employers know that. Sickcare entrepreneurs know that.

It’s questionable whether doctors and their patients know that. Don’t let the glare of your gaming screen blind you to the brutal truth.

Let the games begin.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs