Gone are the days where video games are regarded as childish and a waste of time. With its image-rich content and fast-moving concepts, video games appeal to the younger generation.

It is no surprise then that video games designed specifically for medical-based learning would appeal to medical students and have the potential to train them with important skills.

“You can create a game to mimic any kind of environment—the academic medical centre, the community medical centre, the VA centre,” says Dr Suraiya Rahman, assistant professor at Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California.

An effective supplementary tool for medical students

A study carried out by surgeon Dr James Rosser Jr and his colleagues showed that surgical residents and medical students playing specific video games actually did better on simulators that provided training for laparoscopic surgery, due to the better hand-eye coordination training through the games.

According to research, the core concepts of video games are supportive of scientific learning, which can be broken down to three scaffolds – motivational, cognitive and metacognitive. The scaffolds enhance learning through motivating the player, encouraging problem-solving thinking, and allow the player to relearn from successes and mistakes.

Rahman says that video games may also appeal to some of the common traits of medical students and physicians.

“Video games offer competitive environments, and medical students and physicians are type A. We love to win,” she says. “We love being really good at something, learning something and getting better at it.”

Medical-based games are quickly becoming favourites by medical students. In a survey of 434 residency program directors, more than 90% support the use of games in residency education, with more than half supporting quiz-based exercises to supplement learning.

Here are four video games that are helping medical students gain the necessary skills:

1. Microbe Invader

Microbe Invader lets medical students role-play as a busy doctor in the understaffed Happy Hospital, treating infectious diseases in the local community. This game enhances learning of clinical microbiology as a fun alternative to flashcards with 89 different pathogens and 43 different antibiotics to learn from.

The game allows for the player to diagnose patients by ordering tests, treating patients with the right medicine and exploring the community to eliminate the diseases. The player will also collect a different badge with each encounter and diagnostic of a pathogen.

2. Prognosis

Prognosis is a scenario-based game of clinical cases that are created from real-life incidents. With over 400 cases encompassing various fields of specialty, Prognosis provides diagnostic reasoning and key learning points for each of the cases.

According to Rahman, “This [game] is similar to how we all teach and learn clinical diagnostic reasoning.”

The game will allow medical students to assess their clinical knowledge and test medical decision-making skills in a risk-free setting.

“The game follows [the physician’s] trail of thinking. It creates that network of thinking that we’re used to,” says Rahman. “What better way to learn about patterns than to see [them] on screen and take that information in?”


SICKO is a web-based game, and stands for “Surgical Improvement of Clinical Knowledge Ops”, designed by James Lau, a clinical associate professor of surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Designed to mimic real-life scenarios, players will have to cope with caring for multiple patients and be subjected to Dr Sicko’s comments and points added or subtracted based on the decisions made.

SICKO intends to help surgeons and surgical trainees practice making clinical decisions in a risk-free environment. The game includes classic cases such as appendicitis or cholecystitis.

“Protocols can be taught,” according to Lau, emphasizing that “sound clinical judgment is absolutely essential to ensure the highest standards of patient safety and care.”

4. Medical School

This game provides insight to those who are interested in the medical field. “It tries to simulate some of the work we do and the order [in which] we do it,” says Rahman.

The player will learn about the human body and discover illnesses while learning how to diagnose patients correctly by taking courses all within the virtual walls of the medical school. The game will promote the player to various ranks which includes “Medical Student” and eventually, the player will become an “Attending Doctor”. MIMS

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