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Video Games May Help ER Doctors Improve Skills

December 5th, 2018

We hear a lot about the negative impacts of video games, but recent research suggests they may help emergency room physicians improve their skills. Medical errors are common, and the emergency room can be a particularly challenging setting for doctors to make an accurate diagnosis due to limited time and information available. Pitt researcher Deepika Mohan, MD, MPH, and her team set out to develop a video game solution that would help emergency room doctors make better decisions about care, prioritize patients with severe trauma injuries, and recognize unusual symptoms.

Researchers randomly assigned 320 doctors to either play one of two video games or to study from a medical text for at least two hours; a third group had no intervention at all. The two video games—called Night Shift and Shift: The Next Generation—guide physicians through a real-world emergency scenario such as a car accident, gunshot wound, brain bleed, or heart attack. Physicians use clues to guide treatment and determine which patients need urgent care or need to be transferred to another facility for higher-level care.

Following the training interventions, physicians completed questionnaires and virtual simulations to measure performance. Researchers found that the doctors who played the games made better decisions about care for trauma patients than the doctors who either studied the text or had no training intervention. While the authors note that no simulation can guarantee real-world performance, researchers hope that video games can be incorporated into current training and help emergency room doctors make better decisions about trauma patients in the future.

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