I am thrilled to announce that I have recently had the privilege of being invited to speak on an expert panel at the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) on January 24th. The topic is regarding how serious games can play a role in healthcare education, both on a consumer and CME level.

First, I should properly introduce the conference. The IMSH, which is hosted by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSIH) from January 23rd through the 26th in New Orleans, is a well known conference that features hundreds of sessions, including high fidelity simulations such as computer controlled mannequins and other advanced training technologies. To be invited to participate in this type of event is a great honor because generally, online games and simulations in the healthcare field have not been considered advantageous enough to invest in. However, with my team’s success in its business ventures involving immersive simulations for health education and development of Adobe Flash based virtual machines, the SSIH is interested in our ideas for incorporating serious online games and simulations into healthcare education.

My perspective is to look at serious games in terms of business opportunities. In the non-profit medical arena this usually means creating a business model that funders respect despite being associated with fun and games. With the ability to reach masses of people both affordably and effectively, online Adobe Flash programmed games and simulations can provide a unique answer to institutional mission and educational objectives. For instance, our success with BlueKids for the Children’s Health Education Center has set a benchmark for the online delivery of educational material via the Internet for use within public schools. The Children’s Health Education Center (CHEC), in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been offering immersive game-like simulations to teach about bullying, peer pressure and drugs, tobacco and alcohol since 2004 and have seen steady growth since its inception. In the last four years, the size of the user base has grown from about 4,000 to 40,000 users per school year. With an average of ten health lessons per subject, the Children’s Health Education Center will provide around 400,000 educational sessions this academic year, alone.

Some of the key “business ingredients” are team composition, product/game features, and marketing decisions, especially pricing formulas. In the case of CHEC it took several years to find a pricing formula that K-12 schools would embrace. Their game-based-learning product consists of educational materials for students, teachers, and parents.

Play True ChallengeI have also seen similar success in our recent endeavor with the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Play True Challenge which launched in six different languages during the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, in August 2010. These success stories, I believe, were made possible by mass appeal to users through engaging game-play and ease of use, as well as an appeal to funders due to the scalability of online education and the opportunity to reach a national and international audience.

I am excited to have the opportunity to present my ideas and opinions at this conference, and look forward to discussing it more with other experts. If you are interested in following along in our discussion, please check out my Twitter feed @JonAleckson, or by visiting this blog again in the coming weeks to get updates.