The 💍 Ultimate Marriage: Digital Health and Video Games

Bowhead Health
5 min readSep 19, 2022

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An Arcade in the United Kingdom. Photo by: Carl Raw

According to a peer reviewed article where more than 100,000 participants were surveyed, the average length of time a digital health app was used is 5.5 days (Source: PubMed)

In another — perhaps outdated — report conducted by Accenture in 2016, U.S Hospitals were only engaging 2% of patients via mobile apps (Source: Accenture).

Regardless of how good a digital health innovation is, if people aren’t engaging … the desired effect will not be reached. In a similar way, if a patient is not adhering to their medication schedule then regardless of how great the medicine is … the medicine won’t work.

We can always do better

As a patient, software architect and digital health builder we often ask ourselves what else can we do to drive retention. Some of the ideas we constantly explore are:

  • Reminders
  • Gamification (badges, points, levels)
  • User experience and on-boarding

Many in the digital health industry have already adopted principles of gamification and optimizing the delivery times of reminders.

Having used several of these in our app Better by Bowhead since 2017 we are aware that in some cases we can see improvements by optimizing these three components in the application. We constantly seek to improve these yet what keeps us up at night is how can we transform the way people feel about these apps. There has to be a better way than flooding users with notifications:

Is there a better way to transform digital health apps?

According to Pew Research in the United States, 52% of adults play videos games (Source: Pew Research). We could argue that 25X more adults play video games than patients who are using digital health apps.

Video games are not meant to be confused with gamification tactics. A video game is a story, character-driven experience in a virtual environment. Gamification on the other hand is using gaming-type of interfaces and layers to organize information and hopefully drive the desired interaction.

Can we build an immersive video game to drive behavioral change and healthy habits?

For the past two years at Bowhead Health we built a video game team to test this experiment. This meant we had to add new types of resources to our team:

  • Game producers
  • Game designers
  • Illustrators and Technical animators
  • Storytellers
  • Audio engineers

This forced us to reinvent the way we build digital health apps and after two years we can finally say we have a playable beta demo of Better Quest.

In a nutshell, you arrive on planet Balenz as a Axolotl. (Fun fact: Axolotl’s are salamanders and have the 2nd longest genome with 32 billion base pairs. That’s 10 times as long as the human genome!).

The planet you arrive on is a scorched planet, the rivers are polluted, the forest has been decimated and as you take care of your health you earn Health Sparks. Using these health sparks, you revitalize your world and progress through the game.

In Better Quest, we collect different digital biomarkers from Apple Health Kit and Google Fit while also collecting information from a users habits, including food.

We used the Calorie Mama machine vision food algorithms in order to suggest the foods users are eating:

Now the real challenge — evidence

We believe the immersive nature of video games could provide us with higher retention rates yet what we value most is finding evidence that the Better Quest platform is driving meaningful value for people.

We are engaging with researchers at hospitals in the UK, Canada and Germany in order to validate if Better Quest is in fact helping people to lead healthier, happier and better lives.

During on-boarding the users will answer a Quality of Life Survey EQ-5D-5L. Users will be asked to participate daily and track the foods they eat, mood and their activity from Apple Healthkit and Google Fit. Users who successfully track for 30 days will receive a payment in $USDT. In order for a user to complete the challenge they cannot miss more than 3 days of tracking and answer a final Quality of Life Survey to see if there has been any reported improvements.

The Better Quest platform includes a healthcare provider dashboard which will allow providers to send nudges and customize the patient journey for:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Oncology Patients
  • Mental Health

We will have a followup post regarding the platform.

Attention to data privacy

By using the Bowhead Blockchain we do not require any email, phone number during sign up and instead provide user’s with their 12 word recovery seed needed to unlock their Better Quest app.

Users at any point can revoke consent to the study and delete their information. We are excited to keep you updated on how the Better Quest study unfolds and welcome any questions you may have on our journey to building Better Quest. We are also keen on exploring partnerships with industry and healthcare researchers.

Feel free to join the iOS beta for Better Quest by using this testflight link: https://testflight.apple.com/join/1HnflMNV

Android link coming soon! Please give us a clap if you enjoyed reading this :)

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Bowhead Health

Bowhead Health believes people can live longer and healthier lives with personalized wellness. We develop diagnostics, dispensing and data management technology