Game Boy: When Gaming and Medicine Collide

Published on 
May 27, 2016

CHLA Physician Todd Chang is using serious gaming as a tool to train young doctors

Activity in the emergency department (ED) in a pediatric hospital is fast-paced, and the most precious resource is time. With more than 80,000 patients to attend to every year for trauma, rare diseases and complex conditions, physicians and residents at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have to manage resources accurately and efficiently.

Residents rotating into a pediatric ED can have difficulty adjusting to the sharp difference in tempo, after training in departments that function at a steady pace, enabling watchful observation and measured assessment. In an instant, Todd Chang, MD, an attending physician in the Emergency Department at CHLA, can spot a novice resident in the midst of seasoned emergency physicians.

Combining a passion for game design and resource management, he set out to develop a game with the goal of teaching and assessing cost- and time-effective patient care using serious gaming strategies.

“I’ve always liked video games, but the type I particularly enjoy are called ‘resource management games,’” Chang says. “Farmville is an example, where you manage certain types of resources including your time; performance and scores are based on how well you manage the resources to accomplish whatever goal the game provides.”

This year, the Stemmler Fund of the National Board of Medical Examiners awarded Chang a multiyear grant to develop his game, called VitalSigns. Using best practices in game development, the game is being designed to encourage repeated use and practice that may improve multipatient management in the hospital.

Read the whole story in the latest edition of ResearCHLA Magazine!