Gamification in Telehealth Apps: How Does it Help Engage & Retain Users?

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August 28, 2020

“The global healthcare gamification market size is expected to top US 40 billion by 2024. (Source: Global Market Insights, Inc.)”

The ongoing advancements in the digital health landscape, consumerism of healthcare, and social media are likely the tailwinds leading this trajectory. In fact, within the last few years, gamification has forged quite a relationship with telehealth and most of us have experienced this either in form of a wearable technology or our favorite fitness app.

So what exactly does this relationship look like? How are healthcare apps leveraging gamification to stay on top of their game and improve patient engagement and loyalty? Let’s have a closer look at it.

Gamification in Telehealth

Incorporating game-thinking and game-mechanics in healthcare apps to incentivize people into increasing their wellness achieving their wellness goals through game-like tasks is the basic introduction of gamification in healthcare. Game mechanics like reward, competition, loss aversion, points, levels, badges, leaderboards are some of the most used elements in telehealth apps today and are known to be great motivators.

How Does Gamification Help Engage & Retain Users?

Gaming is a powerful immersion tool. It’s quite simple. Games address our desires and impulses. As humans we are easily driven by our need to be rewarded for our successes,. We are easily motivated by simple things like looking at data and metrics of past achievements, socializing and community building, and interacting and competing with other people.

Besides, when we invest our emotions or efforts in something, it is of greater value to us.

In addition, gamification elements have the ability to lure influx of new patients and boost the loyalty and retention rates of existing patients in the long-run. This works, because completing difficult or taxing goals, achieving a daunting goal you set, or gaining points or badges brings with it a burst of energy and euphoria that makes the players want to play again. This is called ‘stickiness’. Remember the impact ‘Candy Crush’ had on nearly everyone in your friend or family circle? Actually, the impact is more or less the same as when you play DOTA, Fortnite, or whatever your drug is. This is stickiness.

However, keeping users engaged for a longer time period – creating “stickiness – is the challenging part. Here’s how gamification in telehealth achieves this,

  • It stirs your curiosity — Curiosity drives you to step ahead and earn more rewards.
  • It stimulates competition — Scoreboards with other patients’ accomplishments will encourage you to achieve more and analyze their outcomes in comparison to others.
  • It gives a sense of control — no one likes being coerced into doing anything. This is why the key objective of gamification is to give the power to the players, and let them determine the benchmark they will achieve after that. As opposed to a regular app where so much as signing up feel burdensome at times (unless it offers considerable amount of value), gamification in apps make you believe you have the ultimate power. It’s like being given the freedom to ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ book or choosing which adventure to play. Most apps let you create your avatar and creating avatars is fun.
  • Reinforces good behavior – you receive awards for simply achieving your goals.
  • Dopamine, Serotonin, & endorphin release – dopamine or your feel-good hormones release when you get awarded a badge or a point. It makes want to earn another. Serotonin is your good-mood hormones and they release when you cannot stop gushing at your successes – all those badges, awards and gold coins! Similarly, when you are thrilled by a game, endorphins release. And this is why you want to use an app for an nth time.

Games as per research are known to keep our brains fit. Several studies have shown gaming can improve your overall brain functions. A recent research by BBC’s Horizon uncovered that a test group of elderly subjects played a famous racing game for 15 hours over 5 weeks. When tested after 5 weeks of gaming, their memory and attention span scores had increased by about 30 percent.

Gamification in healthcare apps specifically targets human behavior and moods and that is rather tricky however, not impossible. Many apps are successfully leveraging gamification to stay on top of their game. Let’s take a look at some of these gamified telehealth solutions.

Some Popular Telehealth Solutions Using Gamification

The following examples of telehealth solutions illustrate how gamification tends to help patients stay focused, empowered, and committed to their healthcare routine and therapies without hamstringing them.


Fitocracy is a very good example of a gamified fitness solution. It keeps track of your workouts and lets you earn points, level up, wrap up bonus quests, and earn badges when you reach your milestones.

What’s more it allows to socialize – make friends – within the Fitocracy community. You can enter a fitness social network and motivate people on the same level of skill as yourself. By putting yourself on a level that reflects your fitness expertise, and grouping with others at the same level, you can build a network of fitness freaks working towards mutual goals.

Mango Health

This app is a great motivator for patients who forget taking their medicine on time (you and me both!). It lets you set the hours for dosage and alerts you when it’s time. It also offers a detailed prescription, and warns you you on drug interactions and adverse reactions. If you follow through this routine, you gain points to gift cards or charity contributions in weekly fund raisers.


As an Apple product user, you must know how Apple rewards users. Apple Watch and iPhone users get badges for achieving fitness goals such as cycling or hiking. When you beat your daily totals such as burned calories etc. you receive more badges as a reward. On special days it even awards special-day badges.

Fitbit App

Fitbit – one of the long-lasting fitness apps on the marketplace – gamified fitness using leader boards that are typically composed of your friends and loved ones due to brand’s success and integration with Facebook. Chances are that you already know a few people who are using Fitbit.

Besides, games are more fun when played with your peers. That is why Fitbit allows users to set up communities and interact and compete with family and friends who are connected with Fitbit.


This one will give you a jolt. Pact monitors the health progress of each patient. The users who do not meet their fitness standards have to pitch in their money to a fund that honors the users who do meet their standards. The logic is simple: if you’ve to pay your hard-earned money for something that doesn’t benefit you, you’ll think long and hard before you procrastinate again.

Nike +

Nike’s running app, Nike+ stands amongst the top-notch gamified apps in the world. Why? You say. It plays on our inherent competitive spirit. The app keeps track of our running results and monitors our progress towards milestones. It obligates us to go out next time and break our record.

What’s more, it connects you to social media so you can interact with your mates (or flex your scores). As for Nike, with more people running their sales increase.

Blue Shield California

Blue Shield is a non-profit health provider, that aims to make healthcare fun using social media. Participants gain points, badges, rank, and can see the progress they make.

Do you notice what all these telehealth solutions have in common? Gamification.

Gamification – when executed right – has the ability to empower users i.e leveraging awards for extrinsic motivation, as well as hold them responsible for their lethargy or laziness using game mechanics like loss aversion to insinuate curiosity or the eagerness to not give up and finish the task at hand, turning them into long-term customers.

We have discussed how gamification in healthcare motivates and empowers patients but how does it help out the healthcare industry players? It’s simple. It offers insightful data to improve their product or for trend spotting.

It’s a win-win for everyone!

One of the key benefits of gamification is its unparalleled ability to gather, incorporate, and analyze data generated from these apps. When used right, the vast amount of healthcare data can also help health industry players spot trends quicker, innovate healthcare solutions based on actual patients’ needs, allow more detailed planning estimates, accurately analyze risk pools, avoid fraud, and customize their solutions.

In the end, should you choose to gamify your app, remember, not to over-do your app because an annoyed user will most likely uninstall it. Sometimes, your app doesn’t require gamification at all. So, don’t lose the bird in your hand for two in the bushes.

And if you’re confused about gamifying your app or are looking to build a gamified app, you can ping us for free consultation or simply reach out to us for designing your mobile app.

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