Video Game for Emergency Doctors Battles for Top Prize in Bracket-style Innovation Contest

The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC took home the gold in last year’s STAT Madness competition for innovative research on a prosthetic arm that can “feel.” This year, Pitt returns to defend its top spot with a new technology — a serious video game that prepares medical doctors for real-world, high-level patient care.

Voting in the competition began Feb. 26 and continues with a new round each week through March 28. 

The competition is sponsored by STAT, a national publication telling stories about health, medicine and scientific discovery. This year’s Pitt/UPMC team entry, a video game titled Night Shift, focuses on issues emergency department physicians face while operating in a high-stakes environment, making decisions quickly with limited information. In traumas, emergency physicians must also decide whether to transport patients with an exceptionally high risk of further injury or death to another facility with more advanced technology for treatment.

STAT Madness graphic with UPMC and Pitt logos underneath

Vote for Pitt/UPMC in STAT Madness

Pitt and UPMC need your help in defending our place in this year’s single-elimination STAT Madness bracket.

So far, Pitt and UPMC’s educational video game, Night Shift, has made it to Round 3 of 6 — but it needs more votes to move forward. If Pitt/UPMC wins the current matchup, there are potentially three more rounds of competition. Voting for each round ends at midnight on Thursdays.

You can also follow the competition on social media with the hashtag #statmadness2018.

Deepika Mohan, an associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Critical Care Medicine, said that each year, 30,000 preventable deaths occur after injury, in part because patients aren’t properly referred from emergency rooms to one of these trauma centers.

“If we can find tools to help doctors become better decision-makers, there’s a whole host of problems we can go on to address,” said Mohan, who served as one of the game’s developers. “I wanted to create something that changed the way doctors thought and made decisions, and came to believe that the best way to do that was through storytelling.”

The game is a collaboration between Pitt/UPMC researchers and Pittsburgh-based Schell Games, an education and entertainment game creator. In the game, players control protagonist Dr. Andy Jordan, who meets patients with serious injuries and evaluates their need for immediate care and diagnoses their ailments. The game gives physicians second chances they wouldn’t have in an operating room, as well as the opportunity to experience their errors in treatment — all without anyone getting hurt. The game also incorporates a mystery surrounding the unexpected disappearance of Jordan’s grandfather.

According to a study led by Pitt School of Medicine and UPMC physicians, including Mohan, the video game was better than text-based learning at priming real doctors to quickly recognize patients who need higher levels of care. An hour of playing the video game recalibrated physicians’ brains to such a degree that, six months later, they were still outperforming their peers in recognizing severe trauma.

“People who played the game made 11 percent fewer diagnostic errors when identifying severely injured patients,” Mohan said. “I think what this trial shows is that it is possible to harness physicians’ cognitive processes to make them more powerful.”

The game is Pitt/UPMC’s entry to this year’s STAT Madness competition, which is a bracket-style tournament decided by fan votes. The yearly contest has 64 seeded entries that are evaluated by a team of STAT journalists to determine which innovations will have the most impact in the years to come. In the first round of voting, Pitt beat out Caltech with 63 percent of the vote, and in the latest round knocked out Boston University by a vote of 53 to 46 percent. This week, Night Shift is battling a Yale University School of Medicine technology that assists brain cancer researchers.