Innovation Games® at Work: The Military Healthcare System’s Health Games

The Military Healthcare System’s Health Games

One of the most powerful features of Innovation Games® Online is the ability to take any image that’s uploaded and transform it into a visual collaboration game within minutes. We’ve had a lot of fun transforming classic strategy and business diagrams (such as SWOT Analysis and Theodore Levitt’s Whole Product concept) into online games, but one of the most unique uses of the “Design Your Own” visual collaboration game we’ve seen has to be the online game designed by the Military Health System.

The game’s purpose is to explore how teamwork and collaboration can be used to better server patients and their families, in other words, explore how Health is a team sport. One of the insights is that Health is a “Defense” game, and we want to play “Offense” to drive to health as well.

Two of the team members responsible for the game design and research, Sheila Sokol (project manager, Federal Health Futures Group Networked Community) and Mei Lin Fung (architect, Federal Health Futures Group Networked Community), who are also trained Innovation Games facilitators recently took the time to fill us in on the game design and how they hope to continue to evolve the game and its metaphor.

Why did you decide to use a game to explore how health is a team sport?

Sheila: The individuals playing the game are a generation that already plays online games; it’s part of their lives and culture. We wanted to apply this experience and allow them to use the skills they’ve acquired in gaming to solving real-world problems.

An example of the types of scenarios that game play was based on.

Mei Lin: The need for collaboration and teamwork is something we know is needed in the curriculum and continuing education for healthcare professionals. We need to foster teamwork and communication as individuals and their families are both part of the military health system and part of their communities. Duke University has been working with the Health and Human Services Agency in evolving the operations of Community Health Centers. Over 20 years, they have found that dramatically better outcomes and lower costs are achieved when the community and health professionals work together as a team. The Health as a Team Sport game was a tool to explore these issues encompassing prevention, reduction of hospital re-admissions, chronic care and critical care.

Can you tell us about the design of the game?

Mei Lin: The game was invented/designed by Dr. Michael Dinneen, Director of the Office of Strategy Management for the Military Health System and Dr. Ahmed Calvo, Chief of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the U.S. Federal Agency Health and Human Services. In the design, we used the metaphor of gridiron football (American football). Game play wasn’t based on the rules of a typical football game. Instead, the game as designed by we used the metaphor of football to allow our players to discuss how negative influences and actions can be can be counteracted by positive/healthy factors.

Using the metaphor of American Football, players begin the game on the 50 yard line and add healthy indicators to counteract negative factors preventing the football from moving to the goal.

Specifically, the game board or football field was divided into sectors, which ranged from positive indicators (Thriving) on one end to negative indicators (Illness and Suffering) on the other. The two teams, white and red, represented negative influences and healthy actions, respectively. The football’s location on the field indicated the health of the person or group. The game starts in the center, at the 50 yard line.

How did you put the game into practice?

Mei Lin: We played 9 total games over 4 weeks with 24 players, including 3 pilot games as we worked on refining the metaphor and game play. We’re still working on refining the game design and are exploring other sport metaphors like soccer.
During this iteration of games, the players were encouraged to counter negative actions with healthy ones to move the football towards the positive end of the field. All the game moves and chats are being mined for scenarios that could be used to encourage and nurture healthy behaviors.
What kind of insights did the players and facilitators gain?

Sheila: As they played the game, the participants came to an understanding that healthcare doesn’t end at the hospital door. The need for care continues as patients leave the hospital; there’s a need for a hand-off or collaboration with other agencies and groups.

What worked best about the game?

Sheila: It moved the participants out of their daily routines. It was exploratory, fun to play, and helped them understand that the ultimate goal is the health of the person, not the delivery of healthcare.

Mei Lin: People gained the insight that rewarding more healthcare delivery is not the same as driving to increase health. And by shifting the focus, not only do we get better outcomes, but lower costs. Instead of being a patient that needs to be told what to do to fit into the healthcare system as it exists today or being a professional healthcare deliverer frustrated about what insurance will or will not pay for, the people in the community can be engaged and empowered about their own health, and the health of those in their community.

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