Video games designed to improve results of doctors making triage decisions

A team of researchers with widely diverse backgrounds from several institutions in the U.S. has developed two video games designed to help improve results by doctors making triage decisions. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes how the games were developed and how well they worked when tested by doctors.

As the researchers note, nearly half of all patients in the U.S. transported to a hospital for emergency medical treatment arrive at a facility that is not equipped to handle severe trauma. When that happens, doctors there must decide right away if a patient needs to be transported to a different facility or if they can be treated onsite. They note also that most people living in the U.S. will experience a diagnostic error at least once in their lifetime—one that might occur when they meet with doctors who must decide if an injury requires advanced trauma support. In this new effort, the researchers sought to improve the rate at which doctors make the right call under such conditions.

The researchers note that doctors who make triage decisions know what they are supposed to do, but sometimes fail to do it because of other pressing issues—in such instances, they need a reminder. Such a reminder could be in the form of a video game in which doctors make triage decisions for virtual patients and are also asked to spell out the protocols involved with each decision afterward. They also developed a story-driven game meant to help doctors make the right decisions.

After creating the video games, the researchers tested them by enlisting the assistance of 320 physicians attending a medical seminar. After playing one of the video games, each volunteer was asked to take part in a virtual triage simulation that is used to test the judgment of doctors carrying out triage decisions. Control groups reviewed a triage manual or did nothing at all before engaging with the triage simulation.

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