Medical video games found to be more enjoyable

Majority of physicians, young and experienced, preferred learning through play

Video games are considered an effective medium for training professionals, especially those working in fields that require high precision, quick reflexes and great hand-eye coordination. In the medical field, video games are generally used to train professionals in surgical techniques, assess patient conditions and diagnose medical conditions. The 1988 game 'Life & Death', in which players had to assume the role of a surgeon and diagnose and treat various medical conditions using a combination of text-based commands and simple graphics, is considered one of the earliest medical video games.But these games were too primitive compared with the medical video games available across platforms now.

Recently, video game maker Level Ex and an educational research company CE Outcomes did a first-of-its-kind study on the effectiveness of educational video games on a rarely-measured demography of doctors. The study assessed doctors who are in the age range of 32 to 57, with an average of 14 years of practice. As part of the study, these doctors played 'Top Derm', a video game developed for dermatologists. The five game modules in 'Top Derm' tested the doctors with focused challenges across a range of dermatologic images and case scenarios. The study evaluated the players' knowledge acquisition during the games and examined their knowledge retention and transfer weeks later. In the follow-up assessment, the doctors were given new patient case scenarios to evaluate their knowledge, but using a format different from the one they had encountered in the game.

About 40 per cent of doctors demonstrated improved knowledge in three specific modules, namely 'Zebra Cases' (unusual skin disorders), 'Visual Skinsations' (hair and scalp disorders), and 'Pesky Pimples' (acne conditions). While presented with patient clinical scenarios, 88 per cent of physicians either maintained or increased their scores.

Notably, clinical competency increased among the older and younger generation alike. It was also observed that 'Top Derm' had a significant impact on physicians' clinical decision-making. For instance, in one scenario, 10 per cent of physicians modified their management of acne during pregnancy after the game session. In another scenario, physicians correctly adjusted topical acne treatments to improve efficacy and decrease resistance based on their game experience.

Medical video games were found to be more enjoyable than traditional continuing medical education (CME). The majority of physician players, regardless of their age or experience, preferred learning through play over CME. Nearly 75 per cent of physicians expressed an affinity for learning through medical video games. It seems the future is here in which high-skilled medical professionals are video game aficionados, too.