IT Innovation Contest

A team-based contest for creative IT solutions

Driving Quality and Safety through Gamification

Proposal Status: 


Hospital-acquired infections may account for nearly 100,000 deaths annually in the United States.  Many such complications may be reduced by increased awareness of risk factors and standardization of management practices— across all health care provider professions (e.g., nursing, physicians, and ancillary staff).  National patient safety initiatives are increasingly utilized by regulatory agencies, the insurance indsutry, and the public, to encourage hospitals to improve quality through performance in the respective associated safety metrics. 

Success requires participation of all members of the health care team.  Qualities of previous successful initiatives include (1) engagement of staff; (2) driving of participation; (3) collaboration across disciplines/professions; and (4) competition—which ultimately moves the needle.  Essentially, this is gaming.  "Gamification" is the application of gaming mechanics to measure and motivate individual use of a tool or service which already exists—and reframe the experience to engage all eligible participants.  At the enterprise level, we would like to utilize metrics for target outcomes and processes, promote intrinsic motivation of the staff/user, and ultimately enhance the experience—without distraction. 

Together with the gamification firm Bunchball, we are developing a social gaming engine tailored specifically to the healthcare environment and able to run on an existing UCSF CRM platform.  Key elements focus on performance, achievement, and social interaction—from the individual to escalating levels of teams.  Our initial user audience is UCSF Nursing, with staff numbering over 2,000.  For a proof-of-concept pilot, the project will be implemented in two competing intensive care units, with over 100 nurses.  Target metrics include patient safety initiatives (prevention of central line associated blood stream infections), multi-media nursing education, enhanced distribution of unit-specific operational and care quality information, and facilitation and encouragement of peer recognition for exceptional performance.



Social gaming engine to run on existing UCSF database platform, accessible to staff nurses via the web—thereby accessible at work, as well as remotely through desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

A rough demo of the concept, including the strategy for engagement, was presented last May at the Gaming and Learning Symposium at UCSF. A video link can be found at .


Impact on UCSF's mission and/or community:

As a novel approach to improving hospital quality through the engagement of bedside care providers, this project impacts all four components of the UCSF Medical Center Mission: Caring, Healing, Teaching, and Discovering.  The pilot can be scaled up to include additional nursing units, and ultimately, include physicians, as well as ancillary staff, with an additional goal of promoting inter-professional communication and collaboration.  With a core principle of staff education and collaboration in patient quality measures, such gaming platforms could be applied in essentially any other hospital environment, with a potential salutary effect on national patient safety outcomes.


List of team members and their roles: 

Arup Roy-Burman, MD—Medical Director, UCSF

Lindsay Lightbody, MA—Project Manager, UCSF

Robyn Huey, DNP, CPNP-AC-- PICU NP and recent staff RN (end-user), UCSF

Edwin Martin—Director, Software-as-a-Service Solutions, UCSF

Latrice Barnett—Project Manager, Bunchball


While certainly an innovative concept, I think the difficulty will be in coming up with an engaging experience to deliver the target outcomes. For example, simple hand washing dramatically decreases the rate of hospital acquired infections. The challenge is in translating this to a social gaming experience that will reinforce the concept sufficiently to change behavior while engaging the user sufficiently to want to use the system.

A rough demo of the concept, including the strategy for engagement, was presented last May at the Gaming and Learning Symposium at UCSF. A video link can be found at .

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