a woman checking her phone at work and taking her medications

For the past two years, Mango Health has been working to make sure patients take their medicine.

There are lots of medication reminder apps, so what makes this one unique? Mango Health’s team comes from the world of online gaming — they know how to get people logging in every day. Over 1 in 3 people who sign up are still using Mango Health to make sure they’re taking their medication as prescribed after a year. Three in 4 people are using the app every single day. That’s huge.

Mango Health goes beyond just tracking your medication. The app now tracks hydration, weight management, exercise, blood pressure, and glucose. It’s available for iOS and Android.

We got a chance to ask CEO and co-founder Jason Oberfest some questions:

Health isn’t necessarily something you have previously done in your career. What was your inspiration for Mango Health?

Yes that’s correct, I was previously an executive at one of the first iPhone and Android game companies called ngmoco (“next generation mobile company”). Mobile gaming may seem like an unusual background for building a health app like Mango Health, but we believe a key to changing outcomes in healthcare lies in building products that consumers want to use every day—especially in the area of chronic condition management where you need to continually inspire patients to think differently about managing their health. The idea with Mango Health was, “What if we could take everything we ever learned from making mobile games, and uniquely apply that to health care?”

We started with medication adherence because we believe it is a critical first step towards better health for millions of people. Approximately 4.2 billion prescriptions are written a year in the United States. 4 in 5 U.S. adults now take some combination of Rx medications, OTC meds, and supplements each week and yet 3/4 people don’t take meds properly. This is especially true for the big chronic conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. These conditions are often asymptomatic in nature—the patient is often not feeling the effects of the disease every day, and as a result the patient is often not motivated to comply with treatment. Because we know how to build products that people want to use every day, we felt that our skillsets could transfer in a compelling way to daily health management.

The fun, upbeat messages in your notifications are a great touch. How did you come up with your wording? Were you specifically seeking to help improve people’s outlook?

We want to provide an engaging, delightful experience. We want to take an area that for many people is mundane—managing a chronic condition every day—and redefine that experience. Upbeat wording and positive communication is a big part of the app and our brand, but another major factor is the bright and colorful imagery. We believe strongly that taking care of yourself can be easier, less intimidating, even fun, and we do our best to evoke that attitude in every detail of Mango Health.

Is there an anecdote you can share about Mango Health helping people avoid dangerous drug interactions or understand potential side effects?

Oh, there are so many! It’s a bit surprising how often people write to highlight how much they appreciate the drug interactions information. One woman recently wrote on our Facebook page about how she had been experiencing symptoms that had been getting worse and worse over the past two years. Because she had received the app’s interaction alerts in a more digestible format, she was able to go to her caregivers and discuss it with them. Now she and her providers are tweaking her medication regimen to see they can improve her quality of life. Stories like these are a perfect example of how we aim to help people feel more informed and thus empowered to take care of their health.

create a schedule of healthy habits using mango healthWhat is the main takeaway you want readers to know about the goals and mission of Mango Health? Is there any advice you can give to caregivers?

We may have started with medication adherence, but our vision is to be the go-to platform for many aspects of daily health management. We’ve added features to support patients in building other healthy habits like tracking blood pressure, weight, and steps walked regularly.

In terms of advice to caregivers, I’d say that the rise of smartphones has created a really unique opportunity to rethink how healthcare is delivered. I’d encourage them to consider embracing digital health — especially applications like Mango Health that patients really want to use every day.

Can you suggest another company that’s doing something interesting to gamify healthcare?

GymPact is a health company using game mechanics that I find really interesting. Essentially, the product uses a social pact system to incentivize healthier lifestyles. So every week, you make a health-related pact with a few of your friends or loved ones — for instance, to exercise more or eat healthier. You use the app to track your progress, and as a part of the pact, you set the price you’ll pay the others in your group if you don’t reach your goal. If you do keep your end of the pact though, you’ll win your part of the pooled wager. As with the Mango Health app, you then actually earn real rewards for living healthily!

It’s often hard to stay motivated about maintaining health. It’s classic human nature: out of sight, out of mind. We’re glad to see more and more companies using principles of game design and general delight to help inspire people to think differently about managing their health.

Written by Michelle Daly

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