Feature Health and Technology

Games for doctors

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5642 (Published 16 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5642
  1. Stephen Armstrong, journalist, London, UK
  1. stephen.armstrong{at}me.com

Stephen Armstrong looks at how the computer games industry is turning its attention to helping doctors improve their performance

How would you feel if you were facing an invasive operation and, on the way to the theatre, you passed your surgeon playing Super Monkey Ball on a Nintendo games console? According to James Rosser, general surgeon at Florida Hospital Celebration Health in Kissimmee, you should be delighted.

In September 2012, Rosser asked half of the surgeons at the hospital to play computer games, including Super Monkey Ball, for six minutes before performing simulated laparoscopic surgery; the remaining 150 surgeons did the surgery without playing games.

Surgeons who had done the computer game warm-up completed 10 simple rope manipulation trials using surgical graspers in 649 seconds compared with 712 seconds in the control group—a statistically valid time difference.1 The number of errors in suturing tests was also fewer—133 errors versus 192.1 A similar study at the University of Rome produced comparable results, concluding that video gaming enhances spatial attention and eye-hand coordination.2

“The surgeons who had played video games made 37% fewer errors, were 27% faster, and scored 26% better overall than surgeons who never played video games,” Rosser told The BMJ. “I can see a day when we have a video games console in the corner of every operating theatre.”

In one sense, of course, elements of what’s now called gaming have been used by surgeons for thousands of years—ancient Babylonians used clay models of organs to teach doctors and priests. But video games add extra dimensions such as levels, point scoring, and …

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