HomeHealthcarePokémon Go – A health risk and danger to digital health progress?

Pokémon Go – A health risk and danger to digital health progress?

Since its release on July 6 Pokémon Go, the highly popular and contagious game, has made headlines in news outlets The Guardian, Fox News, Huffington Post and the Independent for claims of real health benefits. Some commentators and articles even claim the game to be a breakthrough or milestone for digital health because it gets a large number of people to lift their butts from the sofa or office chair to chase these semi-cute(?) characters in the augmented reality experience.

However, if we ignore the accidents that make it to tabloids, there is a more long-term risk believing that a game is the panacea for the growing obesity epidemic, mental health problems etc… Like simple commercial mantras such as ”an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, it fools the individual and the public to believe that health is simple and that a consumer product will suffice. Health and Healthcare is not simple.

Digital health comes into play

Digital health, an umbrella-term including e-Health (Electronic Healthcare Records), m-Health (APPs on mobile phones but also mobile devices) is a great term to use when speaking of the progress of digitalizing the Healthcare system. It is a term focusing on the change, of IoT, wireless and mobile technologies being used for the enhancement of health disregarding if it is a public or private body that is the supplier or user.

Nonetheless, digital health is now so hyped that anything associated with mobile and health is sloppily being coined as digital health, adding fuel to the ”snake-oil” accusations from healthcare professionals and researchers alike. Successes by media in framing a game as digital health may encourage followers. John T. Wilbanks and Eric J. Topol published an article in Nature on 20th June that states when non-traditional players move into health there is a risk of increasing health inequalities and harming research data, due to the fact that the data is privatized. In their article they focus on tech-giants, but the logics can be interpolated to a wider tech-community.

Hopefully, people can appreciate a game for what it is, a game. Meanwhile, serious companies may want to look into the true opportunity that lies ahead when the healthcare system goes through the biggest revolution since penicillin. Integrating more and higher quality data in the Healthcare system, increasing safety and integrity of health data, and yes, how to incorporate data from commercial sources with IoT improving the public health dramatically through a more evidence-based and outcomes-oriented healthcare system.

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