Wired Hospitals: Methodist Hospital of Southern California and Gamification Systems

An innovative way to collect patient feedback and award nurses for their efforts

A patient sits upright in a hospital bed talking to a nurse in scrubs at the bedside. The nurse is using a tablet

Your patient rates the care you just provided. Do they think you did well? If so, you’ll get a “PECK.” No, it’s not a kiss on the cheek, but rather an acronym for “Providers Empowered by Compassion and Kindness.”

The PECK is the centerpiece of a staff recognition gamification system called Wambi, after an East Asian bird that also appears in the company’s logo. A growing number of healthcare facilities, including Methodist Hospital of Southern California, are now using Wambi to improve engagement, motivation and patient satisfaction. The photo above shows a hospital volunteer conducting a five-question Wambi survey with a patient.

More Than Just a Game

So, what exactly is “gamification”? As the name implies, it’s a system that uses game-like elements, such as goals and scoring points, to model and reward desired behavior. Gamification is grounded in behavioral learning theory, and research suggests that it can have many positive effects. In a 2016 online paper, Mayo Clinic’s Bernadette Keefe, M.D., wrote that games can “tap our considerable capacity for cooperation, resilience, focus, drive, competition and creativity.”

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Wambi is similar to fitness trackers like Fitbit, but rather than tracking your physical activity, it records measures of quality of care. What memorable moments did you create with your patient? Did you bring a warm blanket, take time to explain a procedure or provide a gentle human touch to show you care? Conversely, was there something that could have gone better?

“Wambi is a great tool to allow the patient to elaborate on their care and communicate their perceptions,” says Melinda B. Welch, RN, BSN, a nurse at Methodist Hospital of Southern California [pictured above]. “I have utilized comments to show physicians their patient perception, making my job easier. Wambi is the patient’s advocate.”

With Wambi, patients can respond anonymously and in real time, while still in the hospital. Volunteers deliver the surveys, which are composed of five quick questions. Patients respond using icons that represent different facial expressions. The system’s simplicity has aided its acceptance by patients of all ages. “Patients are extremely grateful that they have a say in their care,” adds Welch.

High Scorers

Methodist Hospital of Southern California rolled out Wambi last year to better engage and reward hospital staff for their hard work. “The results have been remarkable,” says Darlene Burge, RCP, the hospital’s director for service excellence and volunteer services.

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Burge says that adopting Wambi has had many benefits. “The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores have increased since we introduced the system to the staff,” she explains. “Interestingly, we had a period where our scores dipped. We noticed that during that time period, we had a dip in the number of surveys that we were conducting. As we refocused and increased our surveys, our scores increased as well.”

Wambi has also proven popular with staff. Nurses who receive PECKS can redeem those points for prizes or for achievement pins they can display on their shirts. However, Burge says, “It isn’t about the redemption of rewards. Many of the employees are more excited to see the positive comments that are meant for them.  The individual comments about their care and compassion tie them back to why they choose healthcare.”

“Positive comments make my day,” adds Welch, “and the critical feedback helps me deliver the best care possible.” She says she hasn’t yet redeemed her PECK. She is just pleased to receive recognition for her efforts and to be able to congratulate her coworkers for theirs.

Systems like Wambi may be like games, but they’re definitely not zero-sum. Everyone benefits: patients, administrators and clinicians alike. “My self-confidence at work has improved,” says Welch. “I’m aware of my impact, and it makes me want to appreciate my peers so they can feel as good as I do.

DARIA WASZAK, RN, DNP, CEN, COHN-S, is a Long Beach native and SDSU and UCLA alumna. She has over 20 years of clinical and leadership experience and is currently an RN/BSN faculty member.

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