"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."
Mohan created the game Night Shift with Schell Games a Pittsburgh-based
educational and entertainment game development company. The game is designed to tap into the part of the brain that uses pattern recognition and previous experience to make snap decisions using subconscious mental shortcuts - a process called heuristics.
in non-trauma centers typically see only about one severe trauma per 1000 patients. As a result their heuristic abilities can become skewed toward obvious injuries such as gunshot wounds and miss equally severe traumas such as internal injuries from falls. On average 70 percent of severely injured patients who present to non-trauma centers are under-triaged and not transferred to trauma centers as recommended by clinical practice.
Both the game and the text-based learning are intended to help physicians improve their decision making regarding severe traumas. The game however sought to do this through narrative engagement or the use of stories to promote behavior change which has shown promise in recalibrating heuristics.
Mohans team recruited 368 emergency medicine physicians from across the country who did not work at hospitals with trauma specialization. Half were assigned to play the game and half were asked to spend at least an hour reading the educational materials.
Participants then responded to questionnaires and completed a simulation that tested how often they "under-triaged" or failed to send severe trauma patients to hospitals with the resources necessary to handle them. Physicians who played the game under-triaged 53 percent of the time compared with 64 percent for those who read the educational materials.
Six months later Mohan reassessed the physicians and found that the effect of the game persisted with those who played the game under-triaging 57 percent of the time compared to 74 percent for those who had read the educational materials.
"There are many reasons beyond the doctors heuristics as to why a severe trauma patient wouldnt be transferred to a trauma center ranging from not having an ambulance available to a lack of proper diagnostic tools" said Mohan.
"So it is important to emphasize that recalibrating heuristics wont completely solve the under-triage problem and that the problem isnt entirely due to physicians diagnostic skills. But its heartening to know were on track to develop a game that shows promise at improving on current educational training."