Want People To Use PHRs? Try Making Them A Game

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but over the last week I’ve become addicted to a hideously cute little iPhone app called Shopkick.  The app locates where you are geographically, spits out a list of retailers for you, and when you click on the retailer’s name, typically rewards you with “kickbucks.”

The more kickbucks you get, the higher “level” you’re at, whatever that means — and when you collect, say, thousands of points you can get a $25 gift card. (Yippee!)  In truth, the rewards Shopkick offers probably average out to about 3 cents an hour. Who cares?  I keep playing with the stupid app until I’m out of offers to click.

Now can anyone tell me why the same type of scheme wouldn’t motivate at least some consumers to add data to their PHR on a regular basis?  Small cash rewards are already proving effective at improving medication compliance, after all, and for most people, updating their PHR would be no harder than taking a pill.

In the past, I’ve scoffed mightily at online schemes which reward people for participating in communities, filling out forms or otherwise doing what they’re told.  After all, why should anyone care if a site names them an “explorer” or a “champion” or a “grand poobah”?  But there I am, getting psyched when Shopkick promotes me from level 3 to level 4.  Hey, I can’t help it — every time you level up you get such a cute little chime and a big green bubble to pop…  (Yes, I am otherwise a mature, responsible adult.)

But I’m being taught, by playing with this app, that rewarding people — even with very small incentives — can do an amazing job of getting them to repeat behavior.  Offer patients relevant reinforcement and patients are likely to take the PHR maintenance job more seriously.   What if, for example, a health plan teamed up with a pharmacy retailer to offer discounts on products if patients maintained their data? It could be huge.

But don’t make the rewards too exciting. Hey, you might have to keep releasing new, updated versions of your gaming system to satisfy fans.