Making a game out of doc sepsis training

Sepsis is no laughing matter--but a new tool aims to at least make learning about the dangers of the deadly infection a little more pleasant for docs.

The web-based game--Septris--is modeled after the popular computer game Tetris. Developed by Stanford University Medical Center physicians, researchers and education technology experts, the game can be played on a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer.

"The game begins with the cartoon image of two patients on the left side of the screen. On the right side are their vital signs--those cues that can tip off sepsis' presence. Along the bottom of the screen are diagnostic tests and treatment options," according to Stanford's website. "As every second passes, the patients' images sink down the screen, their vitals deteriorating. It takes less than two minutes for a Septris patient to die, which means observations and decisions must be made quickly. The game's objective is not just to keep the patients alive, but to cure them."

"Sepsis is one of those conditions you hear about in med school, but you need to see more of it," said Lisa Shieh, M.D., Stanford's medical director of quality. She serves as director of the sepsis course group and is also a clinical associate professor of medicine. "In some cases, it's straightforward, and in some cases, it's not. It takes a lot of clinical sense."

Gamification has become a hot concept over the past year-getting lots of attention at health IT events and conferences.

"Applying game dynamics to non-game environments creates opportunities to engage people and exert behavioral changes with unprecedented success," notes a recent article in Medical Marketing & Media.

And gaming system makers continue to move into the health monitoring space. Kinect is out in front of this trend, trying to spin its built-in microphone, gesture recognition and other non-health-specific sensors into healthcare add-ons, FierceMobileHealthcare's Sara Jackson noted in a post about the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

To learn more:
- play Septris for free on the Stanford website
- read more about the game
- see the Medical Marketing & Media article