The Benefits of Serious Games on Older Patients

A collaborative study between Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute (SGI) and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has discovered significant benefits stemming from the interaction and engagement in serious games with elderly patients.

Their research, which was presented at the recent European Renal Association and European Dialysis and Transplant Association (ERA-EDTA) congress in London, accredited serious gaming on smart devices with boosting knowledge and awareness amongst the older patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Proving to have a degree of cross-cultural validation, theirs results indicate that use of the app by the more than 70 older patients from clinics in Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and the Philippines led to ‘improved awareness by the patients of healthy dietary choices and of how to manage their hyperphosphatemia – an often misunderstood condition caused by insufficient filtering of phosphate from the blood by abnormal kidney function.’

The Sanofi Group’s ‘Phosphorous Mission’ app was used over an eight-week period. Surveying the patients throughout the study at different intervals concerning how they felt about using the game compared from the first week and the last, brought about meaningful results too. Most significantly, there was a 60% increase in patients understanding hyperphosphatemia, which is a notably complex issue. Furthermore, there was a 35% increase in patients’ knowledge about phosphorous in the diet and a 23% increase in patients’ general knowledge about CKD.

Professor Pamela M. Kato, lead author of SGI said:

“There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests serious or educational games improve the knowledge of young people with chronic illnesses, but far less to suggest this approach can be applied to older patients. 

“With this game-based intervention we were aiming to get a better understanding of how knowledge about chronic kidney disease and phosphates in the diet might be improved by the use of an app, particularly among patients over 40 years old.

“These are conditions about which there has traditionally been a very poor understanding among patients, so the improvements in knowledge associated with the use of the app suggest the approach can have an impact. Moreover, we were thrilled that this older population of patients actually used and engaged so positively with the app for the two-month duration of the study – this was a big accomplishment in itself.”

Although there may a have been a reluctance and/or maybe more of a perception of reluctance of elderly individuals’ willingness to interact with apps and serious games in this manner, their alacritous ‘taking’ to the app seemed to spur on their use of it. Also, the fact that most were conscious of the benefits it was having on them suggest a positive future for the use of apps when working with older patients.

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Ryan Walker