Health care and gamification = a lot of ethical and Complex issues ?

The older I get the more certain I get that there are some things in life that you simply can’t change. Like your race, where you are born, or how your body look. One thing I am really certain on is that I never going to be one of those perfect skinny models with long legs, perfect skin and big eyelashes that you see in magazines or on billboards. It is simply not human to be perfect, and at the age of 27 I have sadly began to realise that. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have tried to be perfect, because you should know I have tried, and not just once but alloth of times. Especially when my life gets too messy with work and uni and there are hundreds of things I should have done but don’t seem to have time for. It is strange because just at that moment I often feel a urge to get control over my own body and health and strive to be perfect. And yes you thought right, that is not healthy and those changes and habits never going to last long, because they never do!

So I got really excited when I started this unit called gamified media and learned about gamification and gamified apps. And specially about how they can help motivate us to get a better health and create new habits that actually work.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on unsplash

I began looking at my phone and found out that I have almost 20 apps that are gamified. I found out that most of them was related to health in some way or another.  This fascinated me because I have tried out many of these gamified apps and still don’t have good long lasting habits. Of Course I have a few favorites that I use from time to time like headspace and Lifesum. So, is the problem me, or is it the aps ? After some research I found out, that the apps that really got me motivated, was the ones where I could add friends that had the same app and “compete” against each other. Like Nike run club and My fitness pal or a norwegian app called “stikk ut. Hopefully now that I know what motivates me It will be easier to actually stick to the plan and get new habits.

Photo by me

Gamification is a great tool and it’s not just used by ordinary people trying to get in better shape. Did you know that It is also used in the medical world to help people with serious health conditions. There are several promising gamified applications and programs helping with all from getting statistics about your blood sugars, taking your medication on time and helping with pain management. One app that really fascinated me is Panda, the application help provide parents keep track of their child’s pain and easily manage medication following a surgery. It is fantastic if we can make sick children and their parents life a little easier with the use of gamified apps.

But it is also kind of scary when you think of the reality that most off the gamified pain aps that is available, don’t have a strong theoretical foundation or have been empirically tested by healthcare professionals. (Hunter,Kain & Fortier, 2019) This raises not just a few red flags at my end. Because if they are not tested or have a strong theoretical foundation how can we then know if these apps are safe to use. This is not a issue when we talk about superficial “get in better shape” apps but it can be the difference of life and death if the app say you should give a bigger dose of pain meds that you should. And not to talk about the dangers if a application get hacked.

There are a lot of ethical and complex issues that arises when an app used in healthcare are not tested and vetted the right way. But we can only hope they still find up smart and safe ways to use gamification in healthcare because I think it will make many lives better.


Hunter JF, Kain ZN & Fortier MA .2019” Pain relief in the palm of your hand: Harnessing mobile health to manage pediatric pain”. Pediatric Anesthesia

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