When you think of video games, you don’t necessarily think of health and wellness. Sure the WiiFit had its time in the sun, but much like all those Xbox Kinect games none of us ever bothered to play, it now gathers dust under our collective beds. And yet video games, as well as the technologies that fuel them, have still made a steady and increasing impact on the healthcare industry. New devices like the VimedixAR ultrasound simulator are primed to fundamentally alter how we train our physicians by utilizing Augmented Reality. Even here at home, we’ve seen the great work being done by the team at UCF Restores, utilizing Virtual Reality to implement behavioral therapy to patients with PTSD.

Video game and simulation technologies have been applied to almost all fields of medical care, and when applied properly and thoughtfully, are coming back with overwhelmingly positive results. Here is just a short list of some the things video games have recently been proven capable of:

  • Improving postoperative pain management in patients[1]
  • Helping those with schizophrenia reduce the power of their hallucinations[2]
  • Improving triage decision making in physicians[3]
  • Improving emotion recognition and social reciprocity in children with autism[4]
  • Literally growing brain matter in older adults[5]

It was this type of promising evidence, paired with Central Florida’s position as a hotbed for both the video game and healthcare industries, that lead to the creation of MeGa Health Jam. A healthcare focused game jam, breaking down the barriers between our health, gaming, and simulation industries, to create meaningful solutions to some of healthcare’s most pervasive issues.

“This (event) is not just about creating games. It’s about applying gaming theory and technologies such as AR/VR/Simulation/3D Printing to the healthcare industry,” said Kelli Murray, CEO of MedSpeaks and one of the lead organizers of MeGa Health Jam. “The potential of leveraging gaming tech and this type of both technical and creative expertise is a wide-open opportunity in health and medicine; particularly in areas like patient engagement, rehabilitation, and education.”

Does all of this sound great, but you have no clue what a game jam is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Similar to a hackathon, game jams are usually freeform style events, consisting of pitches that bring together individuals as teams, and then rapid-paced development of video games around a specific theme or problem. But can a game jam mold itself to the rigid standards of evidence-based science? Signs point to yes. Kunal Patel, founder of Indienomicon and co-organizer of MeGa Health Jam, has seen great success with game jams in a similarly rigid field, aerodynamics and space travel.

IndieGalactic Space Jam, organized by Indienomicon, has been leveraging Florida’s abundant talent pool of Space Coast engineers & scientists together with Orlando’s booming gaming and entertainment industry for 3 years. They’ve brought in over 600 participants who have put in around 6,500 man hours, resulting in 80+ unique space themed projects. What’s more, their big-name sponsors like NASA and SpaceX are getting a chance to explore the effects of burgeoning technologies applied to their data with very little cost sunk into R&D.

“Some people may call it R&D and others may call it playing around, but one thing is for certain we’re going to open minds and find creative new ways to help physicians, patients and the industry as a whole,” says Patel. “Gaming has been the driver of cutting edge technology the last several decades. We had word processors and spreadsheets in the 80s, but it was gaming that consistently drove our need for faster desktops, laptops, phones, tablets, and more. Bringing that same technology into the healthcare space can only help us create solutions with more impact faster than before.”

“We should keep in mind that the number one thing a game team needs to be successful is an engaging user experience that is both memorable and appealing,” adds Murray. “Healthcare is shifting directly into that lane. We need to activate patients in their care, reduce costs, and create differentiators in the market. To get there, the industry needs digital engagement strategies.”

MeGa Health Jam will be making its impact April 12th-15th at the GuideWell Innovation Center in Lake Nona, FL. There are 6 challenge categories: Children’s Health, Behavioral & Disability, Aging Well, Engagement & Adherence, Security & Privacy, and Community/Social Responsibility. Organizers expect a turnout of around 200 developers, and estimate that 25 individual projects will be created.

“What we’re doing is taking these two highly specialized industries of healthcare and gaming, that are often living in totally separate worlds, and finding new innovations from their intersection,” says Patel.

“Which is why this event is really about cross-industry ideation and the lifting of the veil on how these industries can dynamically work together,” continued Murray. “With Central Florida’s rich talent pool of leading healthcare organizations combined with the students and graduates coming from entertainment, arts, and media universities and programs, we know that Orlando is the best place to make it happen.”

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