MedTech Bites June 2019 – edited by Jeanette Donnelly
This time around, we explore an area that is growing exponentially – in this newsletter is the use of games technology to engage people in their health management. Serious games are specifically designed to have an outcome other than entertainment, which are showing a positive impact as interventions for therapy and rehabilitation. Studies are now emerging which show the power of playing games to help solve problems in health education and care.
New Zealand’s gaming industry contributed $143 million to our economy in 2018, growing by 43% from the year before. The industry is also known for its collaborativeness and is a great foundation to build serious health games. The ability to design effective games for health interventions needs clinicians, health providers and the end-user community working with computer game developers. The key to making this eclectic mix work is a good technology translator that can “speak” both healthcare and technology, and more important to bridge two worlds.
In NZ, we have growing pockets of expertise across the nation that are creating serious games being used for therapy, some which are being fostered by NZ’s MedTech Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE).
AbleX Healthcare, a system that combines handheld devices with games designed for rehabilitation of stroke and brain injury patients was one of NZ’s first foray into serious games. This was created by Marcus King from Callaghan Innovation. Today, fostered by the MedTech CoRE and partnering with Burwood Academy of Living Independent, Laura Fergusson Trust and Cerebral Fix, Marcus is developing expertise in traumatic brain injury interventions in Christchurch.
Wellington is also another emerging hotspot. Out of Victoria University of Wellington’s Media Design School has crafted a game to educate schoolchildren to manage skin lesions. This was developed with iMoko, a NZ healthcare company focused on improving health outcomes for Maori and those in remote communities. It has also spun out Swibo which uses gaming technology to motivate balance rehabilitation and training.
In the private sector, NZ is showing how serious games can be used to help mental health issues, a priority health challenge globally. SPARX, the brainchild of Maru Nihoniho, founder and Managing Director of Metia Interactive is an online e-therapy tool proven to help young people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety. It is provided free in New Zealand via University of Auckland, supported by the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project.
The opportunities in serious games lie in creating the engagement and compliance that motivate patients and users of the technology. Underpinning this is the collaboration between the health sector and game developers. This is an exciting space especially with the use of augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
Dr Diana Siew
CMDT Co-Chair and Associate Director of MedTech CoRE
IN THE NZ MEDTECH WORLD…
Dr Vickie Shim is creating an app that will help assess concussions for those at risk and measure it for those who’ve had a mechanical hit.