How a video game is helping ER physicians improve patient care

A critical care physician at Pittsburgh–based UPMC developed a video game to help emergency medicine physicians improve trauma triage skills in a low pressure environment, according to a WESA report.

UPMC critical care physician Deepika Mohan, MD, designed the game — called "Night Shift" — with Pittsburgh-based Schell Games

"Night Shift" follows Andy, an emergency department physician who is treating trauma patients while attempting to solve a mystery surrounding his grandfather. Dr. Mohan said she was inspired to develop the game after learning about research that shows people learn through stories.

During the game's pre-testing, Dr. Mohan found the game's clinical lessons resonated more strongly with people who identified more with Andy. Specifically, players could more easily empathize with Andy after learning about the plot line with his grandfather.

Dr. Mohan compared physicians who played "Night Shift" with those who studied traditional triage educational materials to test the game's success. When both groups took part in a simulation six months later, Dr. Mohan found the group who studied traditional educational materials was 17 percent more likely to underestimate the severity of a patient's injury or illness than the group who played the game.

Although physicians who played "Night Shift" reported it had a few bugs and the research has not concluded whether the game's success is limited to training simulations, physicians are excited by how games could help their younger counterparts improve their medical judgment.

"Where my eyes kind of light up at this is the idea that this could supplement our residents' education in a variety of ways, not just for trauma," said Megan Ranney, MD, director of the emergency digital health innovation program at Brown University's Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I.

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