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Can Video Games Improve Doctors’ Decision-Making?

A new study suggests game-based learning can improve knowledge attainment, transfer, and retention, supporting better patient care.

Design News Staff

February 6, 2023

3 Min Read
video games wide variety of subjects
Dermatologists played Top Derm during the study and improved their in-game scores and their knowledge.Image courtesy of Level Ex

Level Ex founder and CEO Sam Glassenberg set out to gamify physician education and training a few years ago, launching the mobile video games Pulm Ex, Gastro Ex, Airway Ex, Cardio Ex, and Top Derm. His mission was to “provide physicians with an entertaining way to practice new techniques and learn about medical device and drug therapies in a risk-free environment,” he told MD+DI a couple years ago.

A new study shows Level Ex wasn’t just playing games. Conducted by third-party research firm CE Outcomes, the study has shown that medical video games can increase the competence and clinical decision-making of busy experienced physicians. While prior studies evaluated low-level outcomes like satisfaction and impact, this latest study found that doctors showed clinical improvement while playing the games and also demonstrated improvement in clinical decision making long after gameplay, accoriding to a news release.

“Compared with traditional medical education forums such as webinars and lecture series, medical video games are more activating, enjoyable, and convenient,” explained Dr. Eric Gantwerker, vice president and medical director at Level Ex, in the release. “This important study expands on the vast data demonstrating that game-based learning increases knowledge attainment, transfer, and retention to show these findings also extend to practicing physicians, regardless of age or experience level. It also suggests that this knowledge can be applied to clinical scenarios to support better care for the next patient coming through the door.”

The study included practicing dermatologists with an average age of 45 and an average of 14 years in practice. The physicians played five game modules within Top Derm, a game created by Level Ex that recreates medically accurate skin disorders and diseases across a range of skin tones and body regions, Level Ex shared in the release. (To build Top Derm, Level Ex’s game designers had worked with a panel of more than 140 dermatology experts.)

Study participants were required to complete a pre-assessment, educational gaming modules with challenges across a range of dermatologic images and case scenarios, and a follow-up assessment conducted at least two weeks following exposure to the educational games. A total of 59 US-practicing dermatologists completed all components of the study.

Overall, the study participants improved their in-game scores and their practical knowledge. According to the release, the study results were as follows across three of the modules that were focused on out of the ordinary skin disorders, hair and scalp disorders, and acne conditions:

  • 40% of doctors improved their score.

  • 88% of doctors either retained or improved their score in the study’s post-assessment. 

  • In some game modules, doctors increased their practical knowledge by 12% in just 30 minutes of playing time. 

  • The study also found that nearly 75% of the physician players preferred learning through medical video games over traditional continuing medical education (CME).

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“The physicians in this study were busy practitioners who saw an average of 151 patients a week. Finding time to stay current on new skills and treatment methods with that caseload is challenging,” Dr. Peter Lio, practicing dermatologist, world-renowned expert on atopic dermatitis,  and a lead physician advisor for Level Ex, explained in the release. "Medical video games offer a unique and fun way for busy physicians to improve their clinical reasoning, enabling them to advance their skills on their own time and without putting patient lives at risk.”

During the pandemic, Level Ex launched Virtual Technique Guides, described by the company to MD+DI as a “collaborative surgical training platform [that] applies the multiplayer interactivity of cloud gaming to enable surgeons to perform virtual procedures with medical device sales representatives over the same web conferencing platform.” Using this technology, reps could send a link or a QR Code to surgeons that takes them to a cloud-based virtual surgery for a virtual patient that is “totally interactive,” Glassenberg told MD+DI. “We can just jump in there and do a surgery.”

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