By: PRLog
“Gamification” of Employee Wellness Programs — What Works Today
PR Log - May 02, 2012 - The concept of engaging people with games to change behaviors is getting a lot of play in the press and the blogosphere. Google “gamification of healthcare”; the search returns 270,000. And employee wellness conference agendas are packed with speakers sharing their experiences as well as researchers highlighting studies in universities, healthcare, and corporate settings.

The movement is long overdue, according to Health Enhancement Systems President and Founder, Dean Witherspoon. “We’re finally seeing some traction on the idea that engaging people in healthy behaviors needs to be fun, have an element of play, and a  reinforcement approach that shows progress. For years, wellness managers have lived by the mantra that if we simply highlight the risks of poor health choices, people would naturally want to change and start living healthier. Organizations have tried this approach for more than 2 decades — it hasn’t worked.”

Health Enhancement Systems has built gaming elements into its wellness campaigns for more than 15 years with challenging goals, fun themes, buddy and team competitions, and social connections to help individuals and groups support healthy behaviors. “We’re delighted that organizations are seeing the value in our approach to population health improvement,” notes Witherspoon. “We’ve experienced a tremendous increase in all areas of our business as clients look for the best value in maintaining engagement in healthy behaviors. Here’s the exciting thing about our wellness campaigns:  we can get thousands of people all working toward the same goal at very low cost. And we can show management in real time the value of their investment.”

But organizations need to proceed cautiously, suggests Witherspoon. “There’s a lot of speculative activity around gaming in the wellness marketplace at the moment, with unsubstantiated claims of engagement and outcomes.” Unfortunately, some early adopters of venture-backed vendors have been burned as they try to figure out the right approach to achieve long-term results. “If it sounds too good to be true…” Witherspoon advises clients to always ask for 3-year results and to confirm with references who have used the service for at least 3 years. “You can get anyone to enroll in a wellness program with the right carrot or stick, but the real proof is in years 3 and 4.”

Health Enhancement Systems has more than a dozen online wellness programs focused on fitness, nutrition, weight control, energy, and stress management. All are designed around the concepts of:

•   Challenging goals. The programs set a high bar and give participants the chance to experience progress toward the goal. Changing habits established over years or decades is hard, so there needs to be a sense of accomplishment along the way to reinforce continued effort. Health Enhancement Systems invests heavily in engagement and progress tools like trails, stamps, tote boards, travel, game shows, etc.

•   Fun themes. Each campaign has an interesting theme and compelling visuals — usually with the opportunity to learn something beyond the health issue (such as fascinating national/international sites).

•   Social connections. Every wellness program includes teams, buddies, and social interaction tools that allow participants to support each other and contribute toward something greater than themselves.

“’Gaming’ or ‘gamification of healthcare’ applied to employee wellness is just another way of saying that a wellness program should be fun, socially engaging, goal-oriented, and possibly even something to look forward to,” explains Witherspoon. “Paying people to exercise or eat right can increase your short-term participation numbers, but to change habits in the long term, wellness needs to be fun. We’re happy to announce that gaming elements have been built in to all of our ready-to run programs.”


Health Enhancement Systems creates employee wellness programs for organizations in North America and throughout the world. More than 20 effective, engaging HES wellness campaigns have been adopted by over a thousand organizations — serving hundreds of thousands of participants successfully.

For more information about Health Enhancement Systems, visit www.HealthEnhancementSystems.com or call 800.326.2317.

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