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Pfizer gamifies healthcare with Hemocraft

Behavioral change is one of the most difficult elements of human nature to influence. Yet, many brands have done it through the release of products and service offerings.

Netflix has eliminated the wait for episodes by releasing full seasons of shows while brands like Uber and Lyft have pioneered the idea of ride sharing to attract a more value-driven consumer. In both instances consumer behavior has been influenced due to each brand’s unique and innovative product offering.

Now, Pfizer, a leading pharmaceutical company, has entered the arena with its own potentially behavioral shifting app—Hemocraft: Infusion Adventure. Modeled after the popular game Minecraft, it’s described as “a game that aims to help younger individuals with hemophilia, 8-16 years of age, learn the importance of integrating treatment into their routine in an educational and fun gaming environment. Hemocraft was created in partnership with the Entrepreneurial Game Studio at Drexel University and representatives from the hemophilia community.”

Pfizer revealed Hemocraft in late August (along with a wearable wristband) at the National Hemophilia Foundation annual meeting. The description: “As part of their quest, game players interact with the so-called ‘village doctor’—a fictional healthcare professional—to learn how to adhere to their treatment plans and understand how their therapies work. They put that knowledge to use throughout the game, as they’re challenged to monitor factor levels and self-infuse to control bleeding.”

Pfizer is hoping this app—which follows its earlier gamification project to create a mobile game to help detect early signs of Alzheimer’s—will elicit behavioral change in hemophilia patients by engaging young patients.

“These new digital innovations can be integrated into everyday routines to help empower people with hemophilia to learn about and track different aspects relevant to their disease so that they can have informed conversations with their health care providers,” stated Dr. Kevin W. Williams, Chief Medical Officer, Pfizer Rare Disease. “Ongoing innovation, coupled with our research, and support programs, continue to allow Pfizer to positively impact patients’ lives and pioneer a new era in hemophilia—today, and in the future.”

There are many intangible benefits to a brand developing a product like this. First and foremost, Pfizer’s ingenuity is applauded as it manages to solve a problem (routine integration of care in hemophilia patients) by giving patients autonomy to “win” the game if they integrate the necessary elements for upkeep (treatment, education, check-in etc).

This type of “play” also helps simulate outcomes that can make the digital realm a precursor to developing better care and treatment management in the physical world. Products like this have the potential to position Pfizer as a leader of patient advocacy and ultimately humanize an otherwise very nebulous category leader.

Furthermore, the release of this app serves as a testament to Pfizer’s ability to innovate in both its product and marketing channels. The product is designed for the right audience and the product development came from identifying that audience’s needs and desires. This product also gives Pfizer a foundation on which to grow its perceptions of educational advocacy as potential hemophilia patients engage with the app and use its educational services as resources.

This type of innovative approach to patient outreach and treatment in pharma isn’t groundbreaking for the industry—in addition to its own efforts, there have been other gamified experiences in healthcare such as Reflexion Health, which aims to “reimagine the physical therapy experience” to Asthma Hero which helps young patients stay on schedule.

However, the heroism of this particular app is its ability to align strategic elements of the Pfizer brand (honing in on innovation as a key element) and is based on a deep understanding of the Gen Z (8-to-16 year old) demographic. The marrying of the two sides has the potential to elevate Pfizer as not just a category leader but a category champion to a new audience, the consumer audience.

“We are excited to see fun and educational tools that help people with a bleeding disorder, but equally as important, their friends and family to better understand the concept of factor levels in being able to stay active, and stay in the game,” commented Kate Nammacher, Senior Director of Education, National Hemophilia Foundation.

The biggest question, of course, is how will this app improve the lives of patients? And could Pfizer be the pioneer of gamifying and improving population health outcomes?

The takeaways:
• Behavioral change is a difficult element of human nature to tackle—healthcare is no different, but Pfizer is betting on change and improvement with its new app.
• The new app Hemocraft, created after Minecraft, could help young hemophilia patients learn the importance of integrating treatment into their routine in an educational and fun gaming environment.
• Releasing this product helps Pfizer to increase its presence to a consumer audience, but also builds the brand by humanizing it and elevating its service offerings.
• The brand has the potential to transform its image and evolve from category leader to category champion by continuing to build products that align with its core offerings to its various audience bases.
• Pfizer’s ability to impact population health outcomes in the hemophilia community will be the real merit of this app.

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