Everybody can say this simple French word. Ludique

Definition: (adj) related to games, playful, recreational

Could it be what’s missing from many of the health & wellness Health 2.0 applications I have seen so far? Why would that be important? Last I wrote about the widening digital divide. But there may be another divide of our own creation, because we have become guilty of the same error we set to solve years ago.

To quote Marshall McLuhan:

We always enter a new technocultural environment carrying the map of our previous technocultural environment

After spending days on a bicoastal tour of the Health 2.0 current environment one thing really struck me. Ted Eytan wrote about it a few weeks ago:

Those of you who are parents (or near Anna’s age – 12) might not think this observation is that unique, so excuse my lateness to the game, but look at how Anna is interacting with the art in the museum. When we came to the exhibit she was interested in, she immediately grabbed her cell phone camera and started taking pictures. I asked Jane if she would look at them later and said she absolutely would. “It’s her scrapbook,” Jane said.

Anna goes to a school where she’s required to write a blog post every day, covering her assigned work, with one “free day,” each week, where she and her fellow students can write about whatever they want.

In Anna’s case, instead of passively taking in the art, she immediately begins creating content with it. And this is what she is being trained to do every day at school. What will Anna expect when she is 18 from her health care system?

Anna clearly does enjoy the visit to the museum because, thanks to the camera in her cell phone, she is having a “ludique” experience, a real moment of edu-tainment.

Why don’t we see thousands of fun sites helping our youth understand how they can have a healthy lifestyle? Why don’t we see an explosion of health games designed to help the large population suffering from chronic diseases be more compliant with their treatment regimen? Could it be that we still design mostly for the BabyBoomers while we should design for the NextGeners? 

Interesting things can happen when you switch design methodology. Just look at Joe Chemo , “a camel who wished he’d never smoked”, and you’ll see it is possible to have fun with any topic, while providing valuable information to those in need of it.

Look at the agendas of the Health 2.0 conference, the Connected Health Symposium and even the Chronic Disease Care: Better Ideas in Action conference. There was 1 breakout session on gaming in healthcare at the Health 2.0 conference. But a lot is happening in this realm. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is funding the Health Games Research, an $8.25 million portfolio of research opportunities to help bolster the evidence base that supports the development and use of interactive games for health purposes. 

“We’re gaining insight into how people learn,” says Debra Lieberman, director of Health Games Research and a lecturer in the department of communication at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which is the program’s headquarters. “What I love is that people do this willingly. These games are so well-received,” she says, adding that it’s fun to watch how hard people try when playing a game.

Read the entire blog entry. I found it fascinating. It’s time for the e-patients working group to think more about the next generation of health care recipients. That means, in part, paying more attention to gaming and mobile applications. As Susannah Fox tells us at every opportunity:

Recruit doctors. Let e-patients lead. Go mobile.

I also challenge you to guard against the classic mistake of creating tools and systems that don’t place users at the center.

Don’t be the AMA circa 2001 or the recording industry, clinging to your own notions of what should be. Design for what could be.

Choose openness at every fork in the road. Join e-patients in making the choice to find and share information. Join the conversation that is already happening online. Join e-patients in pursuing participatory medicine.

To which I would add:

Learn from the real experts, our children! 

They know that learning in school is fun and collaborative. 

Learning about health should be too!

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