Role of Video Games in Improving Health-Related Outcomes

This study evaluated 38 studies that examined a total of 195 health outcomes. The analysis of studies concluded that the video games show promise in regards to improving health outcomes. The study found that video game improved:

  • 69% of psychological therapy outcomes
  • 59% of physical therapy outcomes
  • 50% of physical activity outcomes
  • 46% of clinician skills outcomes
  • 42% of health education outcomes
  • 42% of pain distraction outcomes
  • 37% of disease self-management outcomes

The analysis found that the study quality of the impact of video games on health outcomes was generally poor, due to varying flaws in methodology.

The analysis aimed to determine if these studies indicated if “video games can be effective interventions in promoting health and/or improving health outcomes associated with established ICD-9 codes” (Primack, et. al., 2016). It is interesting to note that the aim of this research was to examine the impact of video games in relation to ICD-9 codes, which tie directly into the U.S. healthcare system. In most studies that evaluate the effectiveness of video games on health outcomes, the studies center on the desired outcomes for a participant pool, which may be expressed in very general terms or behavior modification. By using the ICD-9 codes, the researchers are able to provide a strong argument that video games should be a serious consideration for healthcare providers.

The researchers identified specific video game intervention criterion be met for inclusion in the analysis. The video game was required to:

  • Have a system of rewards, incentives, and/or objective
  • Be interactive and/or competitive
  • Be designed for recreational use.

While the study obviously included studies that evaluated the education and management of disease specific scenarios, it also included studies that evaluated outcomes related to patient-provider communication, patient satisfaction, and treatment adherence. These tie into the current project in that they are the primary objectives in the creation of the current environment. They are all tied to HCAHPS goals and if shown to be beneficial could become an effective means of communication and patient empowerment while the patients in an inpatient of a healthcare facility.

An interesting observation made by the researchers in this analysis was that many of the studies used targeted individuals between the ages of 50 and 80. The researchers noted that the “greatest opportunity with respect to age group for further studies of video games to improve health may be for individuals aged 30-50” (Primack, et. al., 2016). The researchers identified that today’s gamer defy traditional stereotypes in that the average player is 34 years old, and that 40% of game players are female. This is an interesting demographic to consider keeping in mind that opponents to the use of emerging media communication methods are not a good fit for the current patient population. I would argue that while this observation may be true right now, the increasing use of emerging technology in the baby boomer generation and the fact that the majority of game players are already in their mid 30s suggests that it will not be long before the majority of patient populations will be familiar with emerging media and digital communication methods.



Primack, B. A., Carroll, M. V., McNamara, M., Klem, M., King, B., Rich, M., Nayak, S. (2012). Role of Video Games in Improving Health-Related Outcomes: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 42(6), 630-638. Retrieved January 24, 2016.

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