Ayogo: How Playing Games Improves Health Outcomes for Patients

Having been inspired by the story of PeaceGeeks, a Vancouver company who is helping humanity and changing the world through technology, I wanted to highlight other local companies who are also looking at making a difference. So I asked around the office and a colleague referred me to Ayogo. I recently connected with the team at Ayogo and learned how they’re helping patients one app at a time.

Using Games to Encourage Adherence

According to the World Health Organization “access to medications is necessary but insufficient in itself for the successful treatment of disease.” While adherence to following the prescribed treatment is critical to successfully manage chronic illnesses, for some people making the behavioural changes necessary can be difficult. Michael Fergusson, CEO of Ayogo, decided to tackle the seemingly insurmountable task of changing human behaviour through gamification.
People like to play games…it’s natural. And while on the surface games can be seen as “just for fun”, they are actually teaching us something. As Fergusson stated in a BCTIA six:forty presentation last year,”Games get us to do things that we don’t want to do, in exchange for things that we want.”

Using their custom application platform, Empower, Ayogo creates games that are designed to change behaviours so patients can build new habits that will help them live longer and improve their health. Their games leverage peer-to-peer networking which is a powerful way to provide the necessary social encouragement to keep patients on the right track. By using a combination of emotional connection-psychology, behavioural economics and playful design, Ayogo designs games that are fun to play and at the same time engages patients so they make better decisions about their health.

Tackling the Tough Health Issues With Their Apps: Diabetes, Obesity and HIV

Ayogo has partnered with a number of pharmaceutical companies over the years to develop applications. They created a game with Merck called “Type 2 Travelers.” The game was designed for newly diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes patients and was designed to be social to sustain engagement of adults managing Type 2 Diabetes with a curriculum of lifestyle change, diabetes education and self-care. The game, which is a big hit with its users, includes mini-games, social forums and fun-to-try self-care activities. Type 2 Travelers wasn’t the first game Ayogo developed to help patients with this life-changing disease. They have been developing apps for Diabetes over the past five years and during that time created a game called Monster Manor for kids between the ages of 6-10 to better manage their condition.
Another issue that Ayogo has tackled through gamification is obesity. Recently, Ayogo partnered with a medical institution to develop a game that will help patients lose the necessary weight for bariatric surgery. Patients using the Ayogo app, Picture It!, 60% of patients were highly engaged—averaging 3 of 5 care plan tasks daily for 12 weeks. This group lost 17.3lbs vs 8lbs by the control group.. In addition to losing the weight, those using the app also kept it off for longer period of time.
Ayogo is also taking on the challenge of changing behaviours of patients with HIV. The advancements in pharmaceuticals has resulted in HIV being a chronic condition that can be treated through medication. Dr. Hightow-Weidman, associate professor of medicine in the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, reached out to Ayogo to help increase the engagement of HIV patients so they will more closely follow the regimen issued by their healthcare provider. This project is currently in development, but you can learn more about the issues associated with HIV by reading the interview with Dr. Hightow-Weidman on Ayogo’s blog.

How Can You Make a Difference?

If these projects have inspired you, visit Ayogo’s website and learn more. They are looking for other awesome human beings to help them change the world.

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