RWJF Games to Generate Data Challenge Interviews, Part 2

rwjf-logoThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Games to Generate Data Challenge, which awarded $200,000 to 5 promising game applications, closed in the fall of 2013 and winners were announced at the 2013 Health 2.0 Fall Conference. We had the opportunity to follow up with the sponsor and winner of competition to chat about their experiences with the competition.

Below, we continue our challenge participant interview series with Edward Kim, PhD, and James Park, MD of the winning wHealth team.  Enjoy!

1. Describe your submission to the challenge and what you built.

Using principles of gamification and behavioral economics, we developed wHealth, an interactive, story-telling application focused on improving our users’ health while generating important health data. We used interactive storytelling to engage users to navigate their custom-built avatar through health scenarios and make important decisions about purchasing health care. In the process, users gain knowledge about certain medical conditions and hopefully apply that knowledge to change their health behaviors.

Embedded in the application is the ability to collect controlled, experimental data about a user’s decision-making process. We incorporated several existing health databases, including the 2012 County Health Rankings, and provided public health information customized to the user’s area. In addition, we used message framing to systematically alter the data presented in questions asked to the user to conduct experimental, survey-based research. This research provides insight about how health quality information influences a user’s decision to purchase health care.

2. How did you come up with the idea for your submission? What was your inspiration?

We spent quite some time brainstorming ways to create the ideal gaming application that would balance the gaming experience with meaningful health data generation. With a strong interest in and understanding of game design, Edward focused on the interactive storytelling concept as a main principal to our application. We then combined that concept with James’ interest in behavioral economics to change health behaviors. Using well-known concepts of psychology and behavioral economics regarding subopitimal decision making, we focused on ways that the interactive storytelling concept could address such issues. The byproduct of this partnership was the creation of wHealth that uses interactive storytelling to address future discounting and present-day biases that drive suboptimal decisions by individuals.

3. How did your team and your application benefit from participating in the challenge?

We benefitted greatly from our participation in the challenge. First, we truly enjoyed the spirit of the challenge to innovate and address an interesting health question. We appreciated the interactions with the other finalists, some of whom we remain in contact with. We particularly benefited from the one-on-one feedback session with Ben Sawyer, who provided helpful tips and insights to improve wHealth. Lastly, we appreciate the continued support from Health 2.0 and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The support and opportunities to present our work have been tremendous and would not have been possible without our participation in the challenge.

4. How will your game application impact the greater health care system? What is your hope for the future of this application?

We envision our application to impact various entities of the health care system. First, we hope to improve the health of individuals who use our application through a better understanding of certain medical issues. Second, we hope wHealth will be useful to the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative as a means of empirically evaluating their health quality data and its impact upon choosing a health care provider or hospital. By doing so, we hope to identify the appropriate quality metric(s) that influences the decision process to choose the optimal provider or hospital. Lastly, we hope to impact the academic, health community by providing a new, novel platform to conduct health services research. We believe our application could increase participation rates and streamline survey-based research by engaging them through a gaming platform that collects electronic data.

Ultimately, we hope that wHealth becomes a unique application with the versatility to be an educational game for individuals while functioning as a robust medium to conduct research in many areas of health and beyond.

 5. What is your plan for continued growth and development looking forward? How do you plan to partner with the RWJF?

We have several short-term and long-term goals to further develop wHealth. Some of our higher priorities include validating the quality of data collected from our application by comparing it with traditional survey methods. We are also looking to refine our existing question bank and storylines to improve the gaming experience. Eventually, we plan to conduct several controlled, survey-based experiments on how physician-quality and hospital-quality information influences an individual’s decision to seek care.

Over time, we plan to expand the scope of our game to other health-related areas. Some areas of interest include health insurance purchasing or food shopping. We plan to conduct similarly designed survey studies to better understand the decision-making process in these particular areas. In addition, we hope to develop game-based interventions to induce meaningful changes in health behaviors and assess its impact on users. Currently, we are seeking grant-funding opportunities to allow us to pursue these goals.

We would be excited and open to a continued partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to further the mission of the Aligning Forces for Quality. We welcome the opportunity to partner with any of the AF4Q communities to customize our game application to their particular area. Concurrently, we could conduct health services research using the application and provide empirical findings related to their health care quality information.

We appreciate the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s continued support of innovation in the intersecting areas of gamification and health. All of our current and future goals for wHealth align with the foundation’s various programmatic areas. We believe our application could be a useful tool to research and educate users about these various health issues and look forward to a continued partnership with the foundation.


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