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Hospitals are not playgrounds, but gamification helps children to learn about illnesses and makes therapy easier

This success story was part of the EIT Digital Venture Programme, supporting entrepreneurial teams with deep tech business ideas to finalise their MVP and start their venture. Click here for more information and to apply for the 2020 edition.

Being hospitalised with a serious illness is hard for everyone, but for a child it is even more shocking. Knowing the treatment plans in place and familiarising oneself with the medical world can help to reduce anxiety. To make this process easier, Serious Games for Health gamifies the learning and curing paths for children.

Blood collection, chemotherapy, and physiotherapy are just some of the frightening medical procedures that can affect a child. Just as it does for adults, a serious illness makes them fearful and the lack of information can cause anxiety.

Serious Games for Health intends to be a new strategy to enhance therapeutic adherence and health literacy. The focus is on decreasing hospitalisation rates by increasing physical activity and decreasing anxiety among people struggling with specific diseases," says Hernâni Zão Oliveira, founder of Serious Games for Health. The Portuguese startup was founded in 2019 to focus on the gamification of the hospitalisation experience. 

Our solution transforms the way we deal with sickness and treatment through engaging, interactive and easy-to-use methods,” says Zao. The games he develops address topics like therapeutic adherence, fear of hospitalisation or specific treatments, and reducing anxiety related to illnesses. Additionally, there is a focus on education, as teaching patients about their medical conditions is crucial.

Making treatment less intimidating

Converting a treatment plan into a course of games makes the process more fun and less intimidating. The prototype was made for paediatric oncology, and after several tests and plenty of interviews with doctors, nurses and parents, the results are trustworthy. Patients recorded lowered anxiety levels in the examined children at a Portuguese hospital. They got new information from the game about their illness and it made them more comfortable during the treatments and medical tests.

Based on these promising results, Zao is planning more as well as different games for several other medical issues. Since playing these games does not require any special equipment, just a smartphone or a tablet, they can be applied as part of the medical routine. Although the first use case was about treatment of an illness, the developer says that prevention is important too. Thus, one of the main applications is to provide education about different medical conditions.

Targeting the healthcare gamification market

With the help of EIT Digital’s Venture Program, Zao finished the test period and recorded informative interviews, while building up connections with Portuguese medical institutes and universities. In the fast-growing healthcare gamification market, Serious Games targets serious and exercise game categories for therapeutic and educational purposes. The startup aims to reach patients, caregivers, hospitals, healthcare centres, and some health tech companies and large pharmaceutical companies. With a strong base built up by the first project, HOPE, and several rewards like Astellas Oncology C3 Prize or Portuguese National Participatory Budgeting, Serious Games looks more than promising, and shows great potential for investors.

Click here for more information on the Venture Programme 2020

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