New research claims a video game can improve doctors’ ability to recognise severe trauma in patients

New research has concluded a specifically-designed video game improves doctors’ ability to recognise when patients need to be transferred to a severe trauma centre.

The research, by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and published today in the BMJ, revealed the game Night Shift was better at preparing doctors to recognise patients who needed higher levels of care than reading traditional educational materials.

This was the case even though doctors who were made to play the game, in which doctors play as a fictitious, young emergency physician treating severe trauma patients, enjoyed it less than those who were asked to read relevant materials.

“Physicians must make decisions quickly and with incomplete information. Each year, 30,000 preventable deaths occur after injury, in part because patients with severe injuries who initially present to non-trauma centres are not promptly transferred to a hospital that can provide appropriate care,” said the game’s creator Deepika Mohan, MD, MPH and assistant professor in Pitt’s departments of Critical Care Medicine and Surgery.

“An hour of playing the video game recalibrated physicians’ brains to such a degree that, six months later, they were still out-performing their peers in recognising severe trauma.”

Night Shift was designed by Mohan to tap into the part of the brain that uses pattern recognition and previous experience to make snap decisions by using subconscious mental shortcuts – a process called heuristics.

Doctors in non-trauma centres typically see only about one severe trauma per 1,000 patients. As a result, their heuristic abilities can become skewed toward obvious injuries such as gunshot wounds, and miss equally severe traumas such as internal injuries from falls.

On average, 70% of severely injured patients who present to non-trauma centres are under-triaged and not transferred to trauma centres as recommended by clinical practice.

“There are many reasons beyond the doctor’s heuristics as to why a severe trauma patient wouldn’t be transferred to a trauma centre, ranging from not having an ambulance available to a lack of proper diagnostic tools,” said Mohan.

“So, it is important to emphasize that recalibrating heuristics won’t completely solve the under-triage problem and that the problem isn’t entirely due to physicians’ diagnostic skills. But it’s heartening to know we’re on track to develop a game that shows promise at improving on current educational training.”

For the study, Mohan recruited 368 physicians from across the US who did not work at hospitals specialising in severe trauma. Half were assigned to play the game and half were asked to spend at least an hour reading the educational materials.

Participants then responded to questionnaires and completed a simulation that tested how often they “under-triaged,” or failed to send severe trauma patients to hospitals with the resources necessary to handle them.

Physicians who played the game under-triaged 53% of the time, compared with 64% for those who read the educational materials.

Six months later, Mohan reassessed the physicians and found that the effect of the game persisted, with those who played the game under-triaging 57% of the time, compared to 74% for those who had read the educational materials.

Multimedia courtesy of Schell Games.

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Ocado unveils dexterous robot that it hopes will work alongside humans

Fears that robots may one day steal humans’ jobs may be eased a little depending on how the world receives a prototype collaborative robot (cobot) designed to work alongside maintenance technicians.

The EU funded SecondHands project, which kicked off in 2015, aims to build a collaborative robot to offer support to maintenance technicians working in the warehouse of the online supermarket Ocado.

The prototype cobot, revealed today, which has the official title ARMAR-6, will eventually act as a second pair of hands that will assist engineering technicians when they are in need of help, and will be capable of handling tools or manipulating objects like ladders, pneumatic cylinders and bolts.

“I’ve been here for about seven years now and initially I was hired with a view to getting robots to pack the shopping,” said Graham Deacon, Robotics Research team leader at Ocado Technology.

“Things have moved on a bit since then and one of the things that we’re working on now is a project called SecondHands. This is developing a robot to assist our maintenance technicians. It’s called SecondHands because it’s literally meant to be a second pair of hands for the technician to get their work done.”

Ocado’s cobot was developed collaboratively by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Sapienza Università di Roma and University College London.

Images and video courtesy of Ocado

Each research team, together with Ocado’s own robotics department, contributed a different component that when put together make up the complete robot (part of me hopes someone shouted ‘It’s Megazord time’ when they were done with their part).

So, for example, KIT took care of the development of the cobot including its entire mechatronics, software operating system and control as well as robot grasping and manipulation skills, while EPFL handled human-to-robot interactions and action skills learning.

Rather than going straight onto the warehouse floor, the cobot has been delivered to the Ocado Technology robotics research lab where experiments to evaluate the integrated research components from all project partners is currently taking place.

Ocado hasn’t given any indication yet when we can expect the cobot to be working alongside its human brethren.