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Extension Center Develops Game to Teach Meaningful Use

September 11, 2014

Reinforcing health information technology (HIT) concepts, and reviewing regulations and benefits of Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) are not exactly topics those in the healthcare field consider fun. HealthPOINT at Dakota State University (DSU) and Horizon Health Care, Inc. (Horizon), doing business as Prairie Health IT (PHIT) Network, are trying to make learning these subjects more enjoyable through gamification.

Gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, such as healthcare and the Meaningful Use of EHRs. Dakota State University has strong educational programs around both HIT and computer game design, plus HealthPOINT, South Dakota’s Regional Extension Center, is also part of the University.

The project was conceived as PHIT was preparing a grant application for the Office of Rural Health Policy. “We knew we needed a ‘hook’ to make our proposed ‘It’s A HIT!’ training project stand out among all the other applicants,” explains Scott Weatherill, Chief Information Officer for Horizon. “Dan Friedrich, Director of DSU’s Center for Advancement of Health IT, had the idea of incorporating gamification to our project.”

Once the grant was awarded the group went to work. “Games have an unprecedented ability to involve their players in an immersive, interactive world,” comments Steve Graham, Associate Professor for the College of Business and Information Systems at DSU. “We have some fantastic students in our Computer Game Design program and it is always a tremendous pleasure to work on a development project with them.”

The result of the team’s hard work is the creation of the Clinic Ninja game.

“I was honestly skeptical on whether we could come up with an entertaining game that also delivered content about Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records. The game Clinic Ninja exceeded my expectations,” says Weatherill. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with PHIT staff, DSU faculty and game design students and seeing the game develop from simple story-board sketches and concepts to a visually appealing, functional online game. The game truly offers a meaningful experience that reinforces the concepts that are taught during the ‘It’s A HIT!’ educational program.”

Health IT Week, September 15 – 20, 2014, offers a forum to create awareness of the improvements in the quality of healthcare delivery, the increases in patient safety, the decreases in medical errors, and the strengthening of the interaction between patients and healthcare providers. “Health IT Week seems like the perfect time to recognize the work done by the teams from Prairie Health IT Network and Dakota State University,” notes Dan Friedrich, DSU’s Director of the Center for the Advancement of Health IT and HealthPOINT. “Clinic Ninja exemplifies a creative approach to helping users understand the important role health IT plays in the delivery of quality care.”

For the past four years, HealthPOINT has assisted healthcare providers to Meaningful Use. Meaningful Use is a set of criteria for the use of EHR systems to improve patient care by healthcare providers. The U.S. Healthcare Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act established incentives for adopting Meaningful Use criteria beginning in 2012, with the possibility of penalties for failure to achieve the standards by 2015.

According to SK&A data, South Dakota ranks second in the nation for the highest EHR adoption with 71.2%. Utah is first with 71.6%. “We believe some of this ranking has to do with the work we’ve done with South Dakota providers,” comments Friedrich.

The “It’s A HIT!” Health IT Training for Rural Healthcare Providers initiative includes Horizon’s 14 medical clinic locations and two additional community health center organizations for a total of 21 medical clinics across the state. Prairie Community Health, Inc., in central and northwest South Dakota and allPOINTS Health Services in the southeast part of the state are also members of the PHIT Network and will participate in the “It’s A HIT!” project.

While providers within PHIT have adopted and attested to Meaningful Use of an EHR, Weatherill believes the Clinic Ninja game will help reinforce concepts while providing an entertaining way to learn.