In 2012, Tom Chamberlain, PharmD, founded EdLogics, our gamified health education platform. Recently he shared how he first got the idea from working with patients, and the results so far.
Let’s start with your background. You began your career as a pharmacist, right?
Right. As a PharmD and an entrepreneur, I’ve been involved in starting and growing a number of companies, all of them focused on healthcare education and improving the utilization of healthcare services. My primary objective has always been to improve clinical outcomes and reduce healthcare costs for consumers and payors of healthcare services.
And how did you get the idea for EdLogics?
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to manage my own patients during my doctor of pharmacy program and residency training. Having firsthand experience treating patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and COPD, I knew the challenges of educating and engaging patients in the self-management of their conditions. Traditional educational strategies such as pamphlets and printouts weren’t effective in teaching patients what they needed to know to improve their conditions.
For people with diabetes, testing blood sugar is a routine part of managing their condition. If you’re injecting insulin or using a pump, you may have to test several times a day. Without accurate blood sugar tests, you might not get the right amount of insulin at the right times.
If you can’t measure your blood sugar, you can’t control it. And if you can’t control your blood sugar, you raise your risk of amputations, heart attacks, blindness, erectile dysfunction, and many other problems. One immediate risk is diabetic ketoacidosis, which comes on quickly and can be fatal. Even if you survive, your ER trip will cost thousands of dollars. And it all can be avoided with appropriate education.
Many patients seem to understand how to check their blood sugar once someone shows them. But it was clear to me that most of my patients had forgotten what they’d learned by their next visit. They still weren’t retaining the information needed to manage their diabetes.
This happened over and over again – and similar scenarios occurred with a number of patients with various chronic conditions. I realized we’d never be able to help our patients if we couldn’t find a better way to teach them what to do.
Is that where health literacy comes in?
Yes, but a lot of people aren’t familiar with the term. Here’s one definition:
“Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”
Or to put it more simply:
“Health literacy means you can find and understand the information you need to make good decisions about your health.”
Low health literacy is now recognized as a critical barrier to effective and efficient healthcare. It’s an enormous problem, and the consequences are far-reaching. For instance, did you know that compared to patients with adequate health literacy, patients with low health literacy have:
- 40% higher risk of going to the emergency room
- 55% higher risk of hospitalization from asthma
- 3 times more heart failure hospitalizations
- and 3 times greater odds of 30-day readmission for patients over age 64
In fact, the cost of low health literacy in the US is somewhere between $106 billion and $238 billion per year. It’s unreal!
If we want to improve health outcomes and lower healthcare costs, we need a way to reach consumers – a way that works for them long term.
So how does EdLogics help?
Since I started working in the healthcare industry, the concept of health literacy has matured into an academic discipline. Institutions like Vanderbilt University have devoted teams of talented experts and researchers—like Russell Rothman, MD, MPP, arguably one of the top health literacy experts in the world—to help healthcare providers, employers, payors, and the public understand the implications of low health literacy—and develop effective solutions to address this major healthcare issue.
At EdLogics, we’ve teamed up with many leading academic medical centers and Centers of Excellence (CoE), as well as industry thought leaders like Dr. Rothman and former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Governor Tommy Thompson, to identify specific ways to improve health literacy.
The first step is to make learning fun and engaging. To do this, we employ and work with experienced clinicians, developers, designers, and gamification experts to create stimulating, engaging games that educate users on important health topics, from diabetes to the Zika virus, all developed with the low health literate user in mind.
To keep users coming back, we’ve developed innovative gamification and unique incentive strategies where users earn rewards by playing games and completing educational activities.
Employers can purchase a customized version of the platform, enabling employees and their families to play, learn, and win. And the cost is minimal: roughly $20 a year per family.
What have you seen so far?
I’m very proud of our platform. It’s a product that educates consumers about chronic diseases, common medical conditions, general health, well-being, medications, and how to navigate the healthcare system. We’ve heard inspiring testimonials from employers and employees, and we have impressive statistics on knowledge improvement and consumer engagement. In fact, 100% of users improve their knowledge of a given condition after completing our learning activities, and 79% of users say they will change their behavior based on what they learned.
We’re continuously making enhancements, all with a focus on improving consumer engagement. That’s the key to being able to influence positive behavior change and deliver the most important, lifesaving knowledge. Not to mention the opportunity to reduce pain and suffering – both physical and financial.
A version of this article was originally published on2/22/2017.