Online games are no longer just a hobby (or obsession) for those with lightning-fast fingers and lots of time to fill. These games can also be structured for educational use or to engage multidisciplinary professionals for a very specific purpose.

Whether you call it an online, crowdsourcing, collaborative, or multiplayer forecasting game, the ability to reach out to a particular group of users or a more diverse number of people in real time is becoming a great tool for innovative organizations looking for a wider pool of ideas.

Recently, an online collaborative forecasting game centered on healthcare was launched by the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a company based in Palo Alto, Calif. The aim of the 24-hour project, titled “Future for the Hospital,” was to gather fresh ideas about the future landscape of hospitals, especially community hospitals.

David Raths, contributing editor on our sister magazine, Healthcare Informatics, also blogged about the game when it was first unveiled.

Funded by the California HealthCare Foundation, the game attracted more than 600 contributors from countries as far as New Zealand, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Players logged on to share their views and a total of more than 4,500 ideas. The game presented questions and tasks, which participants had to answer or complete in fewer than 140 characters. Points were awarded for inventive responses.

Among the wide array of opinions and ideas expressed, one common theme emerged: The majority of participants wanted the ideal community hospital to serve as the heart of public wellness rather than a place people go only when they’re sick. It’s a conversation that’s already been happening within the healthcare design industry for the past few years.

There were a number of other interesting suggestions, concepts, and themes posed by participants, such as forming a partnership between the United States Postal Service and hospitals to train postal workers to check in on housebound or high-risk patients.  

A panel of judges has evaluated all the submissions and has started announcing  the awards for the best and most pioneering ideas. The winners will be revealed throughout the rest of the month, beginning January 21.

IFTF is considering creating more healthcare-themed games based in the positive reaction to this project.