Ayogo is building an adherence game for big pharma

By Jonah Comstock
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Diabesties

Ayogo's Diabestes app for college students.

Health gaming company Ayogo's CEO Michael Fergusson hinted at this week's Games for Health event in Boston that the company is working on a new game for a major pharmaceutical company, although he wasn't able to reveal any details.

"I sure would like to show you this game but I didn't get clearance to show it. We're working with one of the five largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to build a game for people with Type 2 diabetes."

Ayogo has previously worked with Sanofi, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim, according to Fergusson's presentation and the company's website.  Fergusson said they're working on a diabetes application for adults.

"It is a social game designed to be played as a kind of ARG, partly online and partly mobile. It integrates a broad prescription compliance program along with a diet and exercise program," Fergusson said during the Q&A. "It's probably the most beautiful thing we've ever done."

"ARG" stands for alternate reality game, which is a game with a narrative that somehow incorporates' players' real-life surroundings. ARGs usually involve engaging participants over multiple media.

At the conference, Fergusson spoke about some of Ayogo's past ventures including kid's diabetes game Monster Manor, which he also spoke about at December's mHealth Summit.

He also mentioned that the company is using the Metria patch -- a version of BodyMedia's VUE patch, developed by Avery Dennison -- in a health game the company is piloting at British Columbia Children's Hospital. The game uses Ayogo's game economy to promote activity among children.

This is not the first time Ayogo has used patch technology in a health game. Back in 2011, Fast Company wrote about a joint project between Ayogo and the Center for Body Computing called I Heart Jellyfish which used a heart-rate monitoring patch.

Fergusson also spoke about Ayogo's peer-to-peer diabetes adherence support network for college students called Diabesties. Previously based on manual input of blood glucose readings, Fergusson shared that the forthcoming version will incorporate a Bluetooth glucometer.

"We know that at 16, a Type 1 diabetic is typically very adherent. And then when they go away to college, they're not very adherent at all. Why is that? Well, there's a number of obvious reasons. You leave all of your routines on which you built your good habits behind, your pediatric endocrinologist is back in your hometown, and your new roommate thinks pizza's a vegetable."

Fergusson said that college students don't play games nearly so much as they message one another, and that instant messaging is a form of play for college students. The platform involves pairing off two college students with diabetes, one more adherent than the other. Fergusson found that students are more likely to check their glucose right after receiving a message.

With all of their products, the company tracks adherence data against game performance. Fergusson said this has led to some interesting insights. For instance, when people elect to challenge their friends to an activity, they are twice as likely to complete that activity themselves. Even more interestingly, the receiver of the challenge is three times as likely to complete the activity.

"Our interpretation was that people who received challenges -- even if they never respond to them -- were the most engaged people of all," he said.