PharmExec Blog

Games: The Next Frontier for Pharma Marketers

Guest Post:  AdvanceMarketWorx founder Ellen Hoenig Carlson live from the Games For Health Conference

This is the first of two blogs covering the fifth annual Games for Health Conference (clickable ink to www.gamesforhealth.org) in Boston June 11-12. You can also follow the conference on Twitter: #g4h09.

Almost 400 attendees, more than 50 sessions, and 100 presenters make up this year’s conference. “The Games For Health conference channels the creativity and vision of game and health professionals to improve health and health care for all Americans,” says Steve Down, assistant vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the conference’s biggest sponsor.  “We’re seeing how games can effectively motivate people to adopt healthier behaviors, empower patients to manage chronic diseases better, and raise medical training and skill development to new levels.”

The conference brings together the sharpest minds in the game development and health fields to explore the use of game technology in health and health care, discuss recent industry advancements, and collaborate on future projects. Key areas of presentations include: health training, behavior change therapy, cognitive exercise, and exergaming.

Highlights from Day 1
As the biggest supporter of both the conference and the on-going work of the Games for Health Project, Paul Tartini, team director of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio opened up the conference with a few words. “From our vantage point as a supporter and advocate, developments in health games hold vast promise to improve the health and health care of all Americans.

More and more, health happens outside of the medical system, between visits to nurses and doctors—it’s a function of where we live, learn, work and play. That is why the ingenuity and impact of well-designed health games can go far in advancing many of our healthcare goals: reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity, driving down tobacco use and exposure, improving the quality of health care delivery or enhancing the performance of public health system.”

Keynote Speaker
Driving the Virtual Fitness Revolution: The Development and Launch of EA SPORTS Active
To differentiate their fitness product from Wii Fitness, EA SPORTS Active targeted the ‘busy mom’,  who is now the largest segment of gaming (This has been documented in multiple reports, including IBIS World and  Digital Mom Report ), and did continuous in-depth consumer research to better understand unmet needs in order to create “Jenny” their development persona. They also enlisted the help of fitness experts to bring fitness knowledge and content to their gaming expertise.

The team outlined three objectives for the EA Sports Active product: 1) Make you sweat 2) Deliver a guided experience that would be easy and not make consumers think and 3) Offer a personalized experience.

To insure innovation, they stopped thinking about their new product as a ‘gaming’ experience and focused on developing a new ‘fitness’ and ‘active’ experience. As they moved into marketing, they used social media tactics to talk to 1,000 influential consumers, including ‘mommy bloggers’ to drive awareness and interest before the product launched.

They also enlisted Bob Greene, Oprah’s personal fitness trainer to add credibility, and launched a 30-day challenge with 12 influential consumers to garner authentic testimonials that they could leverage at launch. Time will tell how much share and fitness improvement they achieve.

Other Presentations

  • Criticisms of exergaming (UNC): A call for more studies in a natural environment to validate exergaming outcomes
  • Senior Wii: A study of seniors and Wii exercise (UCSD/SDSU): Study of 29 seniors showed a decrease in depression (a major issue for senior citizens), an overall improvement in QOL parameters (SF 36) such as mental capacity, emotional health, social aspects, pain, and no change in sleep or anxiety scores.
  • The Allstate-Posit Science Partnership: Cognitive Training for Safer Driving. Showed reduction in accidents through useful view of games.
  • HumanSim: A Platform for Virtual Patients for Games and Simulations (Virtual Heroes). The new platform is designed to enable health care professionals to sharpen their assessment and decision-making skills without risk to patients in realistic, challenging, and immersive environment. It takes advanced game technology and integrates it with a high-fidelity physiologic- pharmacologic model for an unprecedented immersive learning experience. HumanSim provides training-to-proficiency in rare, complicated or otherwise error-prone tasks. Target users include: physicians, nurses, emergency medical personnel, and clinical.
  • Melding games and simulation for health (Duke University)
  • Deconstructing Pamoja Mtaani-a video game to promote youth-focused HIV prevention (Warner Brothers, Virtual Heroes, Parvati Development, Innovation in Learning, Office of the Global AIDS)
  • Payer 1UP: The Health Insurance Business and Video games (Humana): Start with fun first and health second. Games that are fun and facilitate social engagement.

My Time with Ben Sawyer

Ben Sawyer, co-founder of the Games in Health Project left me this thought for the pharmaceutical industry to ponder: “Both Games and Health 2.0 need each other to create Health 3.0. While Health 2.0 is about greater sharing and interactivity,  Health 3.0 is about adding games and simulations to create a more powerful  emotional connection and health outcome.”What do you think about the future role of games to improve health?

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog on Day 2 with more presentation highlights, including my take on the emerging themes and implications for industry.

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  1. [...] » Games: The Next Frontier for Pharma Marketers [...]

  2. [...] read about day 1, here’s a guest blog I did today for PharmExec.  Also for tweeters: [...]

  3. [...] event, along with the associated marketing implications of healthgames, see PharmExec guest blogs “The Next Frontier” and “Can Healthcare Games Change the Game of [...]

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