Video Game Designed To Help Physicians ID Substance Misuse Issues

Researchers are in the final stages of testing an interactive video game designed to help physicians identify the warning signs of substance misuse among patients, the New York Times reports.

According to Michael Fleming at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, most medical students are not trained to discuss substance misuse issues with patients.

Danielle McCarthy -- an emergency department physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital -- said that addressing problems like prescription drug misuse can conflict with physicians' desire to help patients.

Details of Video Game

The Web-based video game is based on Fleming's research at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. It incorporates technology used to train FBI agents in interrogation methods.

The game simulates physician interactions with individuals who might have developed a substance misuse problem.

It seeks to teach primary care physicians and family physicians to look for warning signs of substance misuse, such as a family history of drug problems. It also highlights the importance of recognizing nonverbal signs of nervousness, such as:

  • Breaking eye contact;
  • Fidgeting; and
  • Finger tapping.

The video game lets physicians choose from about 1,500 questions and responses -- which are drawn from Fleming's interviews with more than 1,000 patients receiving opioids for pain -- and encourages them to take a collaborative approach to substance misuse conversations.

According to the Times, medical schools and providers soon will be able to access the online game, which will cost about $50 per hour (Johnson, New York Times, 5/25).

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