Trying out SCVNGR – a game about doing challenges at places

Combining my interest in all things DC, walking, and the future of mHealth, I decided to give SCVNGR a try. I first heard about it on, and next at the Community Health Data Initiative Forum at the National Academy of Sciences, where I learned that the team had stocked a special “Presidential Health Trek,” so why not give it a try.

From the company’s description:

SCVNGR is a game about doing challenges at the places you visit, right from your mobile phone.

SCVNGR combines several things people already do, checking in at places (think Foursquare), sending status updates (think Twitter), and some things some people do (going places, think one of my favorite innovations – walking meetings), challenging each other in healthy ways (think into a nice mobile package. This is either of the Android or iPhone form, as well as an SMS version.

Presumably this allows for a person/organization to create some structure around a social media experience that people share together, in that in groups, they would go somewhere together, answer a question, perform a challenge of some kind, and share their progress with others similarly involved. It sounds like a really nice combination of a lot of “good” things. From my experience, I think it is.

The photos below show screen shots from the iPhone version as well as photographs from the places I trekked to (you can access higher resolution versions here on Flickr). I only attempted two of the locations to get the feel of things, because the locations in this trek (The Presidential Health Trek) are too far away from each other (by DC standards – I realize this trek is for demo purposes).

PS, Isn’t Washington, DC, beautiful?

You’ll notice in the photos that everyone gets a nice profile page so they can reflect on what they’ve done/seen. I presume the data could also be aggregated and shared in interesting ways (everyone has an API these days….).

If I were to design a Health Trek in DC, I could imagine creating a geographically tight game with opportunities for people (patients?) to get to know each other and learn aspects of maintaining their health (take a photo of the lowest calorie menu item! Demonstrate a proper quadriceps stretch!).

And….it looks like I can design one, because SCVNGR has a builder app that allows anyone to build a trek for themselves. So I think I will, once DC cools down just a little bit, and I’ll localize it to a very innovative tech hub in Georgetown…..stay tuned.

In the meantime, see what you think – could this be a way to engage patients in learning about healthy habits, and connecting them back to their doctor/care team/heath system and others like them?

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Ted Eytan, MD