5 Ways Games Are Improving Healthcare

Are video games good for you? Games have been studied for their violent content and influence on human behavior, especially young children. In response, China recently took action by limiting online gaming by those under the age of 18.

While the debate of who should be able to play what games and for how long is ongoing, games have also been found to be beneficial to several areas of human health, including coordination, eyesight, and cognition.

Research has also come out that shows video games may also have positive outcomes in therapy, socialization, and behavior of military veterans.

These benefits may prove useful in the healthcare system to improve patient outcomes.

Cognitive Analysis

One study found that the classic computer card game FreeCell is helpful in monitoring the sustained change in the cognitive state of adults with mild cognitive impairment. 

This can be especially important in adults over the age of 75, where the risks of cognitive decline increases. Using FreeCell with monitoring data can help establish patterns that show how cognitive decline is occuring, and how to better assist with the patient’s needs.

Encouraging Physical Activity

Helping children who are reluctant to develop healthy exercise habits is important for maintaining a healthy weight and reduces the risk for several chronic diseases.

Pokemon Go, a smartphone app designed to send users to real-world locations to “catch” virtual Pokemon, has been noted for its ability to increase the number of steps taken by the user.

One study found that during a 30 day period, users playing Pokemon Go took 1473 steps a day on average, an increase of 25% compared with their prior activity level. This study shows that games like Pokemon Go could be useful as an intervention in children, and even adults, to promote increased activity levels.

When looking to get out and exercise more, it is essential to teach about proper nutrition. Without the right nutrition, people may fall short of their fitness goals and give up. Supplements from Allergy Research Group or Douglas Laboratories may help fill gaps or supplement an existing diet.

Relieving Anxiety Before Surgery

Giving midazolam to a child before an operation may aid anxiety, but these medications can make some parents uneasy or may have side effects. 

One study looked at using hand-held games to help distract children and ease anxiety in hospitals compared to using midazolam. The study found that hand-held games were more effective than anti-anxiety medications in some cases.

Trauma, Stress, and Anxiety

It has already been established that video games can aid the development of problem-solving skills.

However, when looking at Tetris and Bejeweled, researchers have found that these puzzle games can help reduce depression, stress, and in the case of people with PTSD, lessen the prevalence of flashbacks after a traumatic event.

Among veterans, it was reported that puzzle games aided three areas: adaptive coping; eudaimonic well-being (confidence, insight, role functioning); and socializing. It should be noted that excess gaming can hurt veterans, but it was self-reported that the negatives of excessive gameplay outweighed the problems that result from symptoms related to PTSD; so games are not necassarily a solution, but may be useful as a supportive aid to other therapies. 

Building Social Relationship

Research also indicates that games may be useful for social skills training and building relationships. 

Non-competitive and non-violent games were found to be a good way for different age groups to interact as part of therapy, especially between adults and children.

Final Thoughts

Gaming offer a unique opportunity for healthcare providers. As the medium of video games continues to grow in size and opens up to a larger audience, finding ways to supplement traditional therapies with video games may improve health outcomes.