Written by Frank Tucker

Despite the growing availability of online patient health record services and plans, only a handful of Americans take advantage of them or their related services. The US Government spent up to $29 billion dollars to formulate The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and support the adoption and the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) in the healthcare establishments, yet only 7 percent of the population seem interested in availing the fruits of these healthcare improvements by accessing and using an online patient healthcare record to monitor and give input about their health progress1.

The patient health record is not just a piece of paper used to record basic information about a patient during a clinic visit. Nowadays, using an electronic patient health record ensures a patient-centered healthcare management. By accessing their medical records online, patients can have a better grasp of the “how-to’s” of health self-management. Through an internet-based patient health record system, people can be more aware of their health condition, the symptoms associated with their health problem, the purpose of the diagnostic tests performed on them, and the reasons of their physicians for choosing a particular treatment option for their condition.

Gamification: Why this can be the “it” for increasing patient record use in the United States

Time and time again, since the introduction of gamification a few years ago, it has proven to be an effective tool in providing better health. By filling the intention-behavior gap people experience when it comes to achieving optimum health, gamification enabled many individuals to become more conscious about their health choices and make necessary behavioral changes to achieve their fitness objectives.

Gamification, an online strategy used to turn boring, non-game complex tasks to play in order to encourage users to modify their behavior, is one of the proposed models that can potentially change the Americans’ attitude toward the use of online patient health records. There are three main reasons why gamification may be the exact thing the healthcare industry is looking for to push patients to access those health record portals and start filling up all their necessary medical information:

1. Gamification makes form-filling tasks (a rather boring activity) fun

Form-filling, one of the basic tasks needed to completely fill all the basic information in a patient health record, is boring and monotonous. In fact, it has the ability to tempt (“hypnotize” may be a better word for this) even the most patient human being to close his eyes and take a short nap. By injecting fun into this sleep-encouraging activity, people can find the right motivation they need to start filling up all the necessary health information expected from them without feeling bored, tasked, burdened or obligated.

2. Gamification encourages social interaction that persuades other patients to do the same

When it comes to modifying a person’s behavior in a short period of time, nothing beats the effect of peer pressure – the very same motivational technique many trending health apps use to encourage physical fitness among its users. According to a post published by Brigham Young University, 45 percent of health app users use these apps because of peer pressure2. Imagine having a patient health record app that alerts you that one of your friends in your social network was able to beat your score because he or she was able to fill more sections of the patient health record than you. Wouldn’t you be motivated to beat your friends score by accomplishing more?

3. Gamification motivates patients to carry out tedious tasks by providing incentives for a job well-done

Receiving a reward for a job well-done is a form of extrinsic motivation, a type of motivation associated with some external factors such as social pressure, monetary compensation and promotion. According to a study published by Journal of Economic Perspectives3, human nature dictates that a person should give more effort and have a better performance level if a higher incentive is present. In the virtual world of gamified apps, people can receive positive compensations for carrying out tasks in the form of badges, level ups and other virtual rewards. Using this reward principle in persuading patients to carry out the task of filling up their patient health record data may be an effective means to motivate more people to use PHRs for their health needs.


Many people are not that interested to fill online patient records because they feel that this added burden is irrelevant to their health needs4. Therefore, for people to adopt the internet-based personal health record system, they need to see its relevance to their health self-management.

As predicted by the Gartner Gamification of 20115, many organizations now embrace the concept of gamification to retain their customer number as well as to improve their innovation processes. Facebook proved to the world that it can grow the number of its users exponentially over the years through the power of gamification.

The health sector is catching up fast. Health ITs developed health apps that address the demands of patients for a healthier lifestyle. They even crafted apps (eg, Septris) that sharpen the skill of any thrill-seeking healthcare professionals.

The members of the healthcare sector did their part by upgrading their system for a more patient-oriented management. Now, it is the turn of the patients to fill these online patient health records to do their share.


  1. California Healthcare Foundation: New National Survey Finds Personal Health Records Motivate Consumers to Improve Their Health
  2. Brigham Young University: Playing hunger games: Are gamified health apps putting odds in your favor?
  3. Journal of Economic Perspectives; When and Why Incentives (Don’t) Work to Modify Behavior; Gneezy, U. et al; Fall 2011
  4. MicroHealth: Why Personal Health Records are Slow to Adopt?
  5. Gamification Wiki: Gartner Gamification Report 2011
  6. Stanford School of Medicine: Septris