By Karl Kapp
It’s hard to point to one or two “killer app-type” video games in the medical field; however, almost under the radar, video games are quietly and steadily creating impact throughout the entire medical field. A few years ago, a study involving 12 surgeons and 21 surgical residents found that video game skill was correlated with laparoscopic surgery skill as assessed during a simulated surgery skills course. According to the study, “those in the top one-third of video gaming skill made 47 percent fewer errors, performed 39 percent faster and scored 41 percent better on the overall… score than those in the bottom one-third.” But that’s not the only impact of video game on the medical field.
Other researchers are looking at shaping specific health-related behavioral changes and self-management of obesity, neurological disorders, cancer and possibly asthma. Sure commercial products like Fitbit and others are creating game-like incentives for exercising and eating right but the movement and interest in medical-based video games goes beyond commercial products to focus on medical impact for specific disease categories and to help prepare future medical personnel.
For example, at the Royal Victoria Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (RVH-MUHC), there is a physician, Dr. Jeff Wiseman, working on the design of a serious game. The game is called, The Deteriorating Patient. The goal of the game is to help medical students learn how to stabilize severely ill patients when they are on call; it will be available for most standard smartphones.
In fact, a 2012 study titled “Systematic review of serious games for medical education and surgical skills training,” found that both “blended and interactive learning by means of serious games may be applied to train both technical and non-technical skills relevant to the surgical field.”
Moreover, it appears that in 2017 the FDA may approve Project EVO, a computer program created to improve attention and reduce impulsivity of children with ADHD. This would be the first such approval of a video game.
So don’t look away for too long as video games are creeping into every aspect of the medical field from training to treatment. This new frontier will open up many opportunities as well as potential obstacles. These obstacles and roadblocks will need to be overcome by innovative companies and innovative governing bodies.