7 gamification secrets to give better experiences on your health app

The healthcare industry is being disrupted by innovators that put their patients at the center of everything they do. After 90 days 60% of patients stop taking their prescribed medicine. It’s even worse for other medical advice such as diet or sleep. Unfortunately, the same goes for mhealth apps. On average, after 30 days only 10% of users keep using the app.

Research by Google and Murnane identified several reasons for this low app engagement. Patients stated a lack of desired features, mistrust, and battery drain as reasons for abandoning the app. However, the primary reason underlying churn was the patients (35%) abandoning their health goal altogether.

Fixing this problem is about more than technical optimization. Users need the motivation to keep working towards their health goals. That’s where gamification for apps comes in. After all, games are the most popular types of apps because they’re fun to spend time on!

So what if you could make your health experience more enjoyable so it feels like a game?
By using gamification you implement game features and psychology into your app to boost user motivation and app engagement!

Here are the 7 features we’ll cover:

  1. Recognize user achievements with badges
  2. Motivate users with personal challenges
  3. Boost desired user behaviors with in-app currencies
  4. Reward app engagement with experience points
  5. Drive & reward progress with a leveling system
  6. Trigger a sense of competition with a leaderboard
  7. Keep your users engaged with personalized notifications

Need a quick crash-course in gamification? Check out our ‘What is Gamification’ page!

Recognize user achievements with badges

Badges are a visual indication of achievements. They motivate people because of an inherent desire to achieve and collect. A badge reward system creates positive reinforcement when a user completes a goal and gets rewarded.

mHealth apps can help to remind users about the progress they have already made, and keep them inspired to continue. Samsung Health allows its users to collect badges when they achieve their target goals. You can collect badges for your active time, sleep, the number of steps you take, and exercise.

Motivate users with personal challenges

Challenges motivate users by triggering their motivational driver of development and accomplishment. People are driven by a sense of growth towards accomplishing a goal. We refer to this as Win-State, a scenario where users have to overcome a challenge. Without a challenge, rewarding users won’t work.

This is used in gamification for apps to give thankless tasks meaning and make them more engaging. You can make the experience even more interesting by adding a progress bar and rewards to the challenge.

Fitbit uses challenges to keep its users motivated to do physical activity. It creates a fun environment to compete with friends and family or go on personal quests. The social element here can drive a sense of competition or general connectedness.


Boost desired user behaviors with in-app currencies

In-app currencies are a virtual representation of money inside your app. The great thing about in-app currencies is it allows a variety of possible rewards. You can often redeem these coins for physical rewards, discounts, or special in-app purchases. Sometimes you can even enter a lottery system to win epic prizes.

You can use in-app currencies to tie real-world rewards to health goals. Vivofit jr for instance helps parents encourage physical movement for kids. It tracks steps, sleep, and 60 minutes of daily recommended activity. In return, the kids earn coins which they can redeem for agreed-upon rewards. It even helps them manage chores and homework time!

Reward app engagement with experience points

Points represent the progress a user is making towards a specific goal. It provides visual feedback and keeps the user moving forward. You can reward users for interacting with your health app. It will keep them motivated to stay active and improves app engagement.

The American Red Cross developed Monster Guard, which used gamification for apps to prepare children for emergencies. It teaches them how to stay safe during hurricanes, floods, or other disasters. The kids get points for completing tasks on the mhealth app. When they’ve earned enough points they can collect medals and unlock new parts of the game.

Drive & reward progress with a leveling system

With a leveling system, you can reward users for earning a specific amount of experience points. When users level up they get an extra boost of motivation and reinforcement of their previous investment in the app. The leveling system is anchored in unlocking milestones. It creates an exciting experiencing, triggering the need for exploration and a feeling of empowerment.

Adding a leveling system to your mhealth app can boost long-term app engagement and user retention. Plant nanny uses it to reinforce its users to drink more water. For every glass of water you drink, a virtual plant will grow and mature. All you have to do is drink your daily dose and you will level up.

Trigger a sense of competition with a leaderboard

A leaderboard shows the top performers in a set challenge or community. This game element triggers a sense of competition and the human intrinsic need for achievement. By seeing your peers complete their health goals, you’re automatically compelled to do so too.

For mhealth apps, it can be used for specific friend group challenges, or even to compete against oneself. It creates a context where users want to improve.

Bayer’s Didget glucose found 70% of parents find game playing the best way to establish a daily routine with their children. Their glucose meter helps kids between 4 and 14 manage their illness by rewarding consistent blood testing with points. Next to points and levels, kids can compete for a place on the leaderboard in an online community.

Keep your users engaged with personalized notifications

Sending a personal message can help to activate or re-engage users. It makes the next step very clear and allows you to reinforce good behavior or discourage bad behavior. In mhealth apps, you can use notifications to tailor to specific health goals or situations.

Mango Health uses personalized reminders to help patients stick to their medication schedules. Users can earn points for taking their medication correctly. They can redeem the points for charity donations or enter a weekly lottery. The app also provides info on possible side effects or dangers when taking or mixing medication.

Differentiate your app with StriveCloud!

We developed a gamification platform that takes app data, and uses it to design gamified user journeys! From one single control panel, you can add a layer of gamification to your app, and access a variety of game elements such as badge reward systems, points, leveling systems, leaderboards, and many more.

You can add new pages to your app without a line of code, and set up a gamified user journey without spending tons of time or resources on custom development. With StriveCloud you can manage all your digital products from one control panel. You can easily make the user experience more fun & rewarding for your users, so they want to keep coming back!

Check out what our gamification platform can do for your app!


Just like in health treatments, we see patients abandoning mhealth apps due to a lack of motivation. Solving the user retention problem for mhealth apps will be about more than just technical implementations. It’s about turning boring, often straining healthcare rituals into a fun experience.

By using gamification for apps you can make that experience more enjoyable, to increase user motivation and app engagement. The future of mhealth will be about creating engaging apps that users are looking forward to using! Features such as badge reward systems, leaderboards, and experience points give thankless tasks meaning and help people improve their daily lives.

Is gamification something for your business? Get a free consultation now to find out your next steps!

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