Healthcare looks to gaming technology

Nigel Millar
Nigel Millar
Southern District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar believes healthcare is on the cusp of a digital renaissance.

Dr Millar said Southern Health was in discussion with players in the digital and gaming space, as part of Dunedin’s Centre of Digital Excellence.

‘‘We have an ideal opportunity to use digital and gaming technology as an integrated part of the new Dunedin hospital, which could then be a centre for digital health.’’

While healthcare had been ‘‘relatively sheltered’’ from the digital world, it was waking up to the possibilities.

‘‘There are obvious applications provided by so-called health ‘gamification’, for example, that both empower and support patients.

‘‘The digital evolution is seeing that older patients are already sharing social platforms, so it’s established and well understood. Digital avenues are just a natural evolution into that space.’’

An element of that would be helping people self-manage health, supporting them to make their own decisions.

‘‘People aren’t necessarily rational beings. So the games environment provides a nice way of ‘nagging’, if you will, providing reward and incentive to manage medications, blood pressure testing or for physical therapy, for example.’’

Dr Millar believes the ‘‘games’’ mentality means people — and potentially their GP and therapist — could monitor progress or be aware of red flags digitally.

‘‘We already get some of this — on our phones or Fitbits or whatever — which people use because it promotes feedback and we’re finding that is a strong stimulus to change behaviour.’’

He believes Dunedin can take the lead in the space.

‘‘We’re a small city but we’re making big strides in the digital space, which we see as part of our community and part of our economy.

‘‘Our problem is that we see healthcare, physical or even mental wellbeing, as a cost to society, when in reality we are an integrated part of our society.’’

In the IT space, he believes Dunedin already has a tremendous advantage given the proximity to world class research and as a training ground for staff, technicians and programmers.

One of the challenges was how the development of digital solutions dealt with the equity gap.

‘‘We need to develop a model where it can be supplied on a cost effective, or free, basis,’’ he said.

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