A systematic review of gamification in e-Health

J Biomed Inform. 2017 Jul;71:31-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2017.05.011. Epub 2017 May 20.


Gamification is a relatively new trend that focuses on applying game mechanics to non-game contexts in order to engage audiences and to inject a little fun into mundane activities besides generating motivational and cognitive benefits. While many fields such as Business, Marketing and e-Learning have taken advantage of the potential of gamification, the digital healthcare domain has also started to exploit this emerging trend. This paper aims to summarize the current knowledge regarding gamified e-Health applications. A systematic literature review was therefore conducted to explore the various gamification strategies employed in e-Health and to address the benefits and the pitfalls of this emerging discipline. A total of 46 studies from multiple sources were then considered and thoroughly investigated. The results show that the majority of the papers selected reported gamification and serious gaming in health and wellness contexts related specifically to chronic disease rehabilitation, physical activity and mental health. Although gamification in e-Health has attracted a great deal of attention during the last few years, there is still a dearth of valid empirical evidence in this field. Moreover, most of the e-Health applications and serious games investigated have been proven to yield solely short-term engagement through extrinsic rewards. For gamification to reach its full potential, it is therefore necessary to build e-Health solutions on well-founded theories that exploit the core experience and psychological effects of game mechanics.

Keywords: Application; Gamification; Serious game; Systematic literature review; e-Health.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Disease Management
  • Game Theory*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Mental Health
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Motivation*
  • Motor Activity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Video Games*