Video Game Helps Physicians Recognize Severe Trauma Patients

A 6-month follow-up found that these figures had remained similar with 57% of those who played the game under-triaging compared to 74% of those who read the educational material.

A video game featuring a fictitious young doctor treating severe trauma patients was found to improve triage decision-making in a validated virtual simulation better than apps based on traditional didactic education, according to a new study published in BMJ.

The game, “Night Shift”, was designed specifically to “improve heuristic thinking in decision-making in trauma triage.” Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh teamed up with Schell Games to design the game. They recruited 368 emergency medicine physicians who did not work at hospitals with trauma specialization.

Physicians were assigned to either play the game (n=149) or read traditional educational materials for at least an hour (n=148). Afterwards they completed questionnaires and a simulation that tested how often they under-triaged. Results showed that those who played the game under-triaged 53% of the time versus 64% in the traditional educational apps arm. 

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A 6-month follow-up showed that physicians who played the game remained less likely to under-triage compared to those who used traditional educational apps (57% vs. 74%, respectively).

“An hour of playing the video game recalibrated physicians’ brains to such a degree that, six months later, they were still out-performing their peers in recognizing severe trauma,” said Deepika Mohan, MD, MPH, assistant professor at University of Pittsburgh. “Each year, 30,000 preventable deaths occur after injury, in part because patients with severe injuries who initially present to non-trauma centers are not promptly transferred to a hospital.”

The authors conclude by stating that although the real world implications of this intervention are unclear, the results suggest that narrative based video games have the potential to influence physician behavior.

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