Games, simulations boost clinical results

Medical education and patient outcomes both were shown to improve after doctors participated in an online game, according to new research out of Boston.

For the game, providers who played were more successful in bringing their patients' blood pressure under control over the course of 142 days than providers who merely read BP management information online over the course of 148 days. Conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, the study was published online this week in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The content consisted of 32 clinical cases followed by multiple-choice questions about hypertension management that were sent out at spaced intervals to improve learning. Clinician scores were posted to foster competition, according to an announcement.

"Based on our findings, educational games may be effective tools to engage health professionals, boost learning, optimize practice patterns, and improve patient outcomes," co-lead study author Alexander Turchin, director of informatics research in the Brigham and Women's Division of Endocrinology, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, similar research touted this week by Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine determined that simulation-based medical education can lead to improved patient care, better results and other benefits.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 23 medical education studies, concluding that simulation-based mastery learning (SBML) resulted in improvements in four areas: the educational laboratory, patient care practices, patient outcomes and collateral effects such as reduced healthcare costs.

Not all included technology--some involved people who set up situations with real-life scenarios. Others, however, included task trainers, mannequins and multimedia computer systems. The simulations focused on clinical skills, including management of ICU patients on ventilators; catheter insertion; lumbar puncture (spinal tap); laparoscopic surgery and more.

The market for medical simulation products and services is predicted to be worth $1.9 billion by 2017, with the mannequin/patient simulator category being particularly hot.

The South Dakota State University College of Nursing has set up a simulation program to train nurses for the range of duties required of them in rural practice areas. What's more, researchers from Louisiana State University New Orleans Health Sciences Center found that simulation-based training improved teamwork between doctors and nurses in the operating room.

To learn more:
- find the BP research
- here's the Brigham and Women's announcement
- play the game
- check out the Loyola announcement

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