The Gamification of Physical Therapy – Evaluating the Idea

Let the Games Begin!

Computer games and the baby boomer generation have been sworn enemies since these games were released in the second half of the 1980s. American parents fiercely crusaded against the rise of the budding computer gaming industry, calling game developers out for inducing gameplay addiction, promotion of violence and more.

With a touch of pleasant irony, the tables have turned and now some members from the senior generation have begun to experience the fun of playing a computer game at their rehabilitation center!

Gamification of healthcare is a reality and it shows some promising results, especially in Post Acute Care Settings (PAC). Therapy exercises have transformed into therapy arcade and middle-aged to senior citizens are enjoying every bit of the action. What was once depressing, demotivating, mechanical and monotonous has now metamorphosed into a fun experience. Gamification of physical therapy is the latest and the most intriguing digital innovation for the healthcare industry yet.

Bringing out the Gamer Within

 The conventional approach to physical therapy becomes an ordeal for senior patients in no time. This is because it involves patients lifting weights and undertaking body movements based exercises, along with a strict diet and medication schedule, in tow. Throwing a bit of fun into this mix, in the form of a motion-sensing game, as therapists and pioneering technology vendors have discovered, brings about a dramatic change in patient engagement.

Gamification of physical therapy immerses the patient in a software-powered physical space which is both stimulating and interesting. This provides an effective alternate avenue for patients to be engaged in, making them more competitive, enabling them to achieve their goals

These games can engage two patients enabling them to compete with one another. The immersive gameplay and the rich engagement that games designed for physical therapy bring to patients makes them the new frontier in physical therapy. The best part is that it is already delivering phenomenal results, even in its current fledgling state. The key advantages of incorporating this cutting edge technology are:-

  • Remarkably better patient engagement
  • The setup provides critical utilization data to therapists
  • Reduction of re-hospitalization rates

Understanding the Technology

The setup currently includes a camera that is programmed to track body movements of a patient. With this, they can interact with simple games that require the patients to move their arms or legs resembling conventional, physical rehabilitation routine.

A score based reward system keeps patient focussed and motivated to complete their daily quota of exercises. Testimonials from patients who have experienced gamification based technology are predominantly positive, many of them praising the low latency interaction with a game designed for therapy.

An intuitive dashboard tracks the total number of repetitions or ‘reps’ completed by a patient with the option to feature high scoring patients on the leader board, inducing competition and increased participation from other patients.

Stimulating motivation

Patients who are suffering from grave medical conditions such as dementia and reduced motor functions usually give up on physical therapy. The primary reason for the lack of motivation is usually depression.

A customized approach to game design for specific patients has shown fruitful results. Clinical performance specialists from one of the largest names in-home health services in the United States, Kindred healthcare, noted the eagerness from a patient who was suffering from a terminal illness when introduced to a motion-sensing game that involved connecting dots on a screen to make water flow through pipes. The patient was a former plumber who immersed himself into the game which ultimately enabled him to become fit enough to be discharged from the Skilled Nursing Facility (SKF).

 Implementation Plan

 PAC service providers have begun to explore the immense potential of gamification in physical therapy. The response of patients to this technology is a testament to its effectiveness. Independent software developers have a huge opportunity to make their mark with gamification technology specifically designed for physical therapy.

Although there are some serious challenges involved in the design and development process of an entire package for physical therapy. Collaborating with software development companies for game modeling, virtual reality, motion sensing firmware, and more, ISVs can reduce the cost of development significantly.

The magic ingredient in the quest to make gamification more effective is the quality and speed of development. That can make sure that patients are engaged better with better experience and novelty. Nalashaa assists ISVs to develop therapy solutions faster through its product engineering services.

PAC providers stand to carve out a niche for themselves in the gamification segment by investing in the technology before it begins to garner mainstream attention. Gamification has all the makings of a key technology capable of redefining physical therapy.

To know more about our product engineering services drop up a line at

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Puneeth Salian

Puneeth Salian

A writer in Healthcare domain, who is also a science and technology enthusiast. Enjoys creating interesting pieces that elucidate the latest Healthcare IT trends and advancements.
Puneeth Salian

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