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Heart Foundation uses gamification to drive user engagement

Health organisation reduces drop off rates for its corporate well-being pilot program

Damon Mudge, national director of operations at the Heart Foundation.

Damon Mudge, national director of operations at the Heart Foundation.

To ensure a web-based corporate health program was a success, the Heart Foundation needed to find a better way to engage organisations than simply enabling users to record their goals online and sending them information by e-mail.

Using a gamification model, the health organisation piloted a six-week corporate well-being program for users to track and monitor their health online in a fun and interesting way.

“Basically the way it works is staff register and they form into teams. They can then gain points on a daily and weekly basis through recording and/or achieving their goals they set around nutrition, physical activity, etc,” said Damon Mudge, national director of operations at the Heart Foundation.

“They are rewarded at different levels by the number of points that they have earned – either at an individual level or on an averaging basis across the team – to try and motivate team members to buddy up and assist each other with that process.”

Users are rewarded with either gold, silver or bronze badges based on their efforts in achieving their health goals they set using the online program.

For example, a user may set a goal to exercise three times a week for 60 minutes each and log their activity against that goal on a weekly basis. If the user is successful in consistently achieving their goal then he or she will be rewarded with points that add up to a badge, which is displayed to their peers within the organisation they work for.

This then helps drive competition among teams or individual users and helps promote encouragement from their peers.

“That ‘badging’ process is public within the social network that they have got within the corporate and they can share stories. We’ve got some people providing blogs and other such things to try and help motivate the broader staff across the organisation,” said Mudge.

To ensure users compete fairly, Mudge said a limit was put on how many points users can gain for each area of their health so that they are rewarded based on their attempt to excel in all areas.

“We don’t want people just engaging in physical activity but not changing their nutrition processes or behaviour. So what we’ve done is put cap on each of the different factors and people are then encouraged to try and make behavioural change across a number of different areas,” he said.

Before moving to a gamification model, Mudge said it was a challenge getting people to adhere to making behavioural change over the long term for their health when working with a “forms-based functionality rather than a more social and teaming based approach."

He said the software-as-a-service event management system he was using for some of the previous public health campaigns was not “very user friendly” as it was hard for people to record their information and didn’t provide enough motivation for users to act on their goals.

“There was a fairly large drop off in terms of people tracking against their goals,” Mudge said. “It was [previously] more based on registration, goal setting and email communication rather than recognition and a rewards-based process or a teaming approach where there was a level of competition,” he said.

Mudge said hundreds of registrations were received within the first few days of using the gamification model for its pilot corporate program. Suncorp Group and Aurizon (formerly QR National) signed up to the six-week program and doubled the number of registrations they expected to get.

“There are about 1500 registrations. We do know that in the first few weeks, after week two we were still looking around about 21 per cent of people who were still recording and that’s a lot better than we saw in that public program in that same sort of time frame.” Mudge said.

When looking for a provider to deliver the platform for the pilot program, Mudge he needed it to be easy to manage and with few ongoing costs. He first scanned the market for an off-the-shelf product but couldn't find anything that met the organisation's needs.

That’s when he turned to IT consultancy ThoughtWorks, which was recommended by Suncorp – a main sponsor of the pilot program. He said he preferred not to use “coders” to deliver the business outcome.

In addition to its online health programs, Mudge said the Heart Foundation is also consolidating its networks and customer relationship management systems as part of a five-year plan to map out its asset replacement and software review cycle for major applications and upgrades.

“We did a VMware and Citrix upgrade over the last 12 months and there’s [still] some final consolidation of the old network components that need to be tidied up and completed.

“We are re-doing the contact management around the ‘Tick’ program. We have recently done it for the call centre and the research program.

Mudge is also planning to deploy a document management system in 2014. He said the Heart Foundation doesn’t have strong document management support and this will be a key part of the five-year plan.

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