Playing to Win Patient Engagement

Anna Webster, September 7, 2011

Marketers are always looking for ways to boost patient engagement. With many audiences trained to block out traditional healthcare marketing messages it's time to turn up the creativity.

"Funware" also known as "gamification" is a marketing method that applies gaming techniques to non-game settings. Adding a little fun to healthcare through games or contests can boost patient engagement, brand loyalty, and employee satisfaction.

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A few months ago, I wrote about how Children’s Hospital LA enlisted LA Lakers forward-center player Pau Gasol to promote its expansion. The idea originally started as a marketing campaign, but then transformed into an interactive video game, which uses images of Pau hiding in different spots of the hospital’s new wing. Patients can guess where Gasol is hiding and submit their scores when the game ends.

“We had a brainstorming session about it and at first it was going to be a campaign, but it turned into a game,” said Amanda Hedlund, marketing specialist for Children’s Hospital LA. "This way patients can interact and play with others while learning about the new wing of the hospital."

The idea at Children's Hospital LA was to boost patient engagement and familiarity with the new facility. The concept links adolescent interests such as video games and star athletes to the context of the hospital.

Though there was a base cost involved in creating the "Where's Pau Now" video game, the visit and participation from Gasol was voluntary. Since the game's launch on the Children's Hospital LA website, it has received 196 likes from Facebook. Staff also have received positive responses from patients, Hedlund added.

But children aren't the only demographic for hospital marketing games. Gaming techniques can also appeal to adult patients and even healthcare staff while keeping costs at a minimum.

Anna Webster Questions? Comments? Story ideas? Anna Webster, Online Content Coordinator for HealthLeaders Media, can be reached at
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