As a patient experience community our members and guests are consistently seeking ways to engage and support the patients and families they serve, and the use of technology including personal health tracking apps, wearable devices and gaming through mobile devices can play an important role in contributing to a positive hospital experience by providing an opportunity to promote not only exercise but also social interaction.
By now, many of you have heard about Pokémon Go and may even be playing it yourselves. For those of you who might not know, Pokémon Go is an app where players can explore their surroundings and search for Pokémon creatures. There are also “Pokestops,” where you can collect items that you use in the game and gyms, where you battle for control against other players. Not sure if your hospital has Pokémon? If you have an interesting or unique art piece somewhere in your hospital, chances are it’s a “hot spot.”
Pokémon Go can provide an opportunity to positively affect the patient experience in a variety of ways. Some hospitals are using the app as a way to encourage their patients to get out of bed and be more mobile. Others have reported that patients have attributed weight loss to their use of the game. In order to catch Pokémon, you have to find them and that means going to different places and walking around. The game actively encourages walking by rewarding you when you hit milestones.
When you see patients or family members interested or actively involved, it is an another opportunity to make a connection with them. Just imagine how this could impact someone and possibly take their mind off of their next procedure even for a brief moment as well as foster a connection for the next time you walk in the room. One patient experience leader shared with me a recent experience she had.
What an AMAZING opportunity for patients, siblings and families to experience during a hospital stay or long clinic day! Something truly special that they can readily access while others cannot. I personally spoke with a father who was playing with his son. I asked whether they were playing Pokémon Go. They responded yes, and then, with great excitement, shared with me that our hospital was a “hot spot.” Dad paused and said, “My daughter is upstairs (in a hospital room). She cannot leave the room yet, but she’s been able to use her phone and play the game from her bed.” He said they were thankful that she and her siblings could all enjoy the game.
There are downsides though, with the game having unexpected impact on hospitals’ daily operation. Hospitals are reporting more visitors, in particular unsupervised teens coming in to play the game. As well as there are concerns around increased traffic in areas of hospitals, including, front entrances, Emergency Departments and even near Critical Care Units. This leads to privacy and security issues. In a hospital, this can raise issues of patient confidentiality with gamers entering areas of hospitals where they might inadvertently have access to sensitive patient information. There are also safety concerns. Besides players wandering into restricted areas where they themselves could be injured, there is also an increased risk of infection due to germ exposure.
Some hospitals are moving forward and requesting that their facilities be removed from the game. Many are putting signs up asking people to be respectful of patients’ privacy and reminding them that hospitals are a place where people come to heal and not a gaming area. Others have alerted staff and asked them to report to security anyone they see playing.
While they are negatives that must be addressed and managed, there are benefits. As long as it is managed in a way that is safe for patients, staff and the community, there are opportunities to use the game in a way to impact the patient experience in a positive and meaningful way. In healthcare, we strive to provide opportunities to provide the best experience for our patients and family members. Technology and gaming apps can help with this, providing a way to interact with patients, motivate them and get them active. As your patients are trying to “catch ‘em all,” it could also make the hospital a little less scary place for them to be.
As we have seen, new technologies are consistently playing an important role in improving interactions and engagement with patients and family members. We would love to more about how not only this game but other technologies have impacted you and your organization in improving the experience for your patients, family members, staff and the overall community. What new technologies have helped you engage with patients and family members and how? What benefits and challenges have you seen from implementing new technologies?
Director, Member Experience
The Beryl Institute