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A Brief History of Healthcare in Videogames

“…health-focused video games, including those for mobile platforms, now deserve serious attention.”

Interactive Games to Promote Behavior Change in Prevention and Treatment: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), March 2011

A lot of attention is being paid to gaming at the moment. Rightly so. Game modeling’s place in the toolkit of marketing is still in its infancy, but should and will gain traction in the months to come. I’ll be writing more on the subject in a later post (reprising a presentation on the subject I gave about a year ago) but thought it would be of some interest to trace the history of how health gaming evolved into the state that it’s in today.

In the beginning…

In 1971 Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger developed a game called Oregon Trail. If you’re around my age, no doubt you spent countless hours playing it. For those who are uninitiated, Oregon Trail is an educational simulator that was written to help teach students at Carleton College in Minnesota the details and events of the great westward expansion. To add to the realism, players could contract all manner of illnesses, including measles, snakebite, dysentery, typhoid, cholera and exhaustion. You could also drown or break a limb. It was the first video game where managing the overall health and wellness of your player (and family) was a key element of gameplay.

Oregon Trail

In 1978, Atari released Brain Games, a collection of cognitive challenges designed to help improve various aspects of mental function, like memory and problem solving. While the game was a commercial flop, it set the stage for a whole collection of games designed for mental fitness. Read More…

ICANN Released New gTLDs – Now What?

On June 13th, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approved a slew of new gTLDs (generic top level domains) that potentially create new web suffixes ( or, more technically, strings ) to supplement the existing stable which includes .com. .net, .org, .gov, .mil, .edu, .biz, .info and .int ( country specific gTLDs also exist ). The full list, which can be found here requires a $185,000 application fee, plus a yearly service fee of $25,000 paid directly to ICANN. Needless to say, that’s some serious
coin.

The requested gTLD strings included applications from some major pharma companies, with some applying for brand trademarks and program names. I may have missed a few combing through the list, but at last tally they included:

  • Abbot ( .abbot .abbvie )
  • BMS ( .bms )
  • Boehringer ( .boehringer )
  • Eli LIlly ( .lilly .cialis )
  • Johnson & Johnson ( .jnj .baby )
  • Merck ( .merck .emerck .merckMSD )
  • Pfizer ( .pfizer )
  • Sanofi ( .sanofi )

Also interesting to note that several of the bigger pharma companies opted to pass on securing a new gTLD string, including Roche, GSK, Novartis, AZ and Bayer. Pepsi, along with a few other mega-brands, have been very vocal about their decision to stay on the sidelines of the gTLD land rush, while Google and others have applied for multiple strings. So who’s going to come out ahead? Those who acquired the domains now, or those who waited? Given the expense involved and the lack of a road map to implementation, the answer isn’t a clear one.

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Second Screen Marketing

You’ve heard of the big screen, many watch the small screen, but what is all of this discussion around the second screen? The second screen refers to act of using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone while watching television. We all do it, whether it’s that last email for work, or posting a status message to Facebook. It’s the easiest form of multi-tasking and devices like smartphones and tablets make it even easier to do while watching your favorite program.

In many cases, the second screen experience is a social one: Using Twitter or Facebook to live comment or discuss TV happenings using social media tools. More practically, the second screen in our hands extends the passive experience of TV watching into an interactive one once a viewer is exposed to tv content that interests them and sends them online to learn more.

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Healthcare & Technology – Where Does Pharma Fit In?

Even as the Supreme Court continues to debate the legality of the Obama health care law, most specifically the Affordable Care Act’s individual health-insurance mandate, many key initiatives of the plan’s overall intent are here to stay.  Critically, they are already changing the entire healthcare landscape and cannot be ignored.  To ensure a full share of the benefits, Pharma needs to engage with HIT now and fully understand the new landscape unfolding.

Better living through technology

While most other major industries such as music, publishing, and banking have already seen the disruption and reinvention of the digital revolution, healthcare has been characteristically slow to the party.  Fortunately, the HITECH ACT of 2009, designed to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology, has helped to greatly motivate the digitization of healthcare.  

HITECH is the first big push into digitization and it is accomplishing its goals.  Over $6 billion of the $27 billion allocated has been spent to date.  According to recent CDC data there’s been a 33.8% adoption rate for EHRs in NY and over 60% of physicians are using tablets in daily practice (presumably to view EHRs).  And judging by the hundreds, even thousands of presenters, exhibitors, and attendees of eHealth conferences such as HIMSS, Health2.0, and the mHealth Summit, the overall market for HIT is extremely robust.  Until you walk the many miles of the HIMSS exhibits it’s hard to understand the growth of this market.  EHRs are just the tip of the iceberg as entrepreneurs launch new apps and sites while major players like Phillips, Cisco, GE, Dell, and countless others line up to help drive the connected future of healthcare.

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