Gamification is applying game design features to non-games (usually to encourage participation or to make mundane tasks not-so-boring). And many of you know that, as a physician who loves marketing, persuasion, humor and making iPhone games, it goes without saying that my favorite part of what I do is when I combine all of these elements.

Well, not the ideal situation for me to try more gamification of healthcare, but nonetheless it seemed appropriate to me… My son has his second trip in seven months to the Emergency Department for stitches. This time, he collided with one of his sisters & then apparently fell hitting his head on the side of a chair. The head and scalp are loaded with blood vessels so you can imagine what a bloody mess it was.

Any time there’s head trauma, though, you have to be concerned to what extent. There is always a period of watching consciousness. Thankfully, he never lost consciousness, but during that period immediately after the injury and stopping the bleeding, I wanted to be sure that he was himself.

Gamification in Healthcare - Dr Tori Tries Using iPhone Games in the Emergency RoomThis injury occurred right around his normal nap time. So when you’re assessing for consciousness, you have to wonder – how much of this is just needing a nap (especially after all of the crying and commotion)? And how much of this is related to head trauma?

Well, here’s my theory (and it is just a theory, now tested only on an n of one): Parents can detect subtle changes in their children by watching them perform a task they’ve performed many times before. Obvious right? Well, why not try that with iPhone games? My theory was that if my son could play my new game (test build) like he had been playing the past few days, then his drowsiness a few minutes before is more likely to be from needing a nap than from the effects of brain injury. (Anyone who has kids knows that when they’re tired, they can briefly snap out of it to do something they love… and he loves the new Big Goose Egg game, Guano!)

Let’s be very, very clear, though… Total brain rest is recommended in the early post-concussion period. This means no video games, no TV, etc. But that is for treatment. Right now, I’m talking about diagnostics. I’m talking about a parent detecting differences in their child enough to tell a clinician.

(And although I am a physician, none of this should be taken as medical advice. Your situation is unique to you and requires its own doctor-patient relationship with a qualified professional.)

So, anyway, he’s fine. With pressure the bleeding stopped and he tolerated the stitches with only local anesthetic. The only problem now is convincing him he doesn’t need a Band-Aid anymore and keeping him away from my iPhone and my iPad.