Doctors Learn Interviewing Techniques With Interactive Video Game

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)
The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you ever need to go to a hospital emergency room for yourself or to accompany a loved one? The process of explaining your symptoms to the doctor can be cumbersome. You might be suffering from extreme pain due to illness or injury, or even a chronic pain. Patient interviewing (taking a quick history and physical) is a learned skill, though many people have natural abilities when it comes to making a patient comfortable enough to speak openly and honestly. We sometimes call this skill “bedside manner.”

We have talked before about the importance of training physicians to spot signs of addiction in order to prevent overdoses and fatalities. But training and honing skills takes time and often comes more with years of experience, a luxury that most new physicians and nurses just don’t have.  So how do you find the time to quickly improve your interviewing skills?

The New York Times reported this past week that a new interactive video game has been developed by Dale E. Olsen, a former professor of engineering at Johns Hopkins University. His company, Simmersion, has designed similar training programs for the F.B.I. to teach interrogation techniques. Mr. Olsen’s company designed the game based on research by Dr. Michael F. Fleming of Northwestern University.

“It teaches doctors to look for warning signs of drug abuse, like a history of family problems, and to observe nonverbal signs of nervousness, like breaking eye contact, fidgeting and finger-tapping.”

As one doctor, who tested the interactive video game, reported:

 “You don’t want people to be in pain…and you’re put on the spot. I’ve had patients yell at me. I’ve never been hit, but once or twice I’ve felt physically threatened.”

Here are some important facts about prescription drug abuse:

  •  In 2009 prescription drug abuse caused more deaths than car accidents
  • 75% of overdoses now involve prescription drugs
  • The C.D.C. indicates prescription drug abuse in the United States is the fastest growing drug problem

Soon medical school students and health care providers will be able to learn how to interview patients via this web-based interactive video game. The game will offer 10 sessions lasting 15 to 20 minutes. Cost? About $50 per hour.

So stay tuned…

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