Digital health company Brainlab has acquired clinician-training video game company Level Ex for an undisclosed sum.

Brainlab creates software-driven medical products that digitise, automate and optimise clinical workflows in various therapeutic areas, meaning Level Ex’s portfolio of clinician-training games fits well into the company’s wider strategy of driving value creation across the health data economy.

Level Ex technology is already being integrated into the Brainlab 3D Viewer software and a virtual sales tool for the company’s ExacTrac X-Ray patient position and monitoring system. The 105-person company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brainlab at the end of May, but will continue to operate independently from its Chicago office, retaining its name, management team and medical and surgical gaming product lines.

Brainlab president and CEO Stefan Vilsmeier said: “We began working with Level Ex in 2019 for several reasons. They are the best at disseminating best practices through video games, and they are unrivaled in their level of ergonomic user interaction, gaming industry-quality 3D graphics, precise physics models and game mechanics psychology.”

Learning through play

With Brainlab’s support, Level Ex plans to expand its team to support demand from global markets, medical device companies and medical societies. Its growing partner base includes six of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies, and it boasts a user base of more than 600,000 medical professionals. The company recently released an update for its platform centred around diagnosing and treating Covid-19.

Level Ex also plans to release new games in the areas of dermatology, orthopaedics and oncology over the next year, alongside its Cardio Ex, Gastro Ex, Pulm Ex and Airway Ex games. Level Ex’s games are designed to help players refresh their medical knowledge or familiarise themselves with the use of a new device, and can provide continuing medical education (CME) credits. The games are developed by a team of software engineers and medical professionals.

Level Ex founder and CEO Sam Glassenberg said: “Our mission is to advance the practice of medicine through play: unleashing video game technology and design to improve skill and accelerate the adoption curve of new techniques and technologies in healthcare.

“I can’t imagine a better place to fulfill that mission than Brainlab—a company that has fiercely advanced the cutting edge of medicine for decades and continues to build platforms that service broad ecosystems in healthcare.”

A wider trend towards gamification

The acquisition reflects the growing popularity of gamified products. The gamification market is predicted to grow from $9.1bn in 2020 to $30.7bn by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate of 27.4% during this period.

The news of Level Ex’s acquisition by Brainlab comes a few weeks after Akili Interactive, another medical video game company, received De Novo clearance for paediatric ADHD therapy app EndeavorRx. While the two companies operate in different areas – clinician training versus patient-facing – both developments indicate an increasing recognition of the role of gamification in the medical industry.

Level Ex is also working with NASA to help build an astronaut medical training programme through a grant from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health.