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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Local doctors are perfecting their skills with video games.

It sounds odd, but studies show physicians can benefit from this alternate form of hands-on learning.

It took nine months to develop and about $500,000 in grant money from the NIH, but a physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School has put together an app for an iPad that allows other doctors to make better decisions.

“What we are doing here is trying to use engagement and particularly a narrative engagement — and engagement with a story to make the decision principals memorable,” Dr. Deepika Mohan said.

Dr. Mohan had the idea for the role-playing game called “Night Shift.”

The main character is a doctor. The game was designed by Schnell Games, of Pittsburgh.

“I said, ‘I want to make sure there is an emotional component to it, and I want them to get experience making mistakes or having good outcomes.’ And he said, ‘OK. It sounds like you need an adventure video game,’” Dr. Mohan said.

Doctors didn’t enjoy the game as much as traditional teaching, yet the study says they were better able to recognize patients who needed higher levels of care.

“If you do a good job, if you make the right decision and transfer the patient to a trauma center, your boss finds you and says, ‘That was a really good job. I know that was a really tough decision and we are really glad to have you on faculty here.’ If, on the other hand, you make the wrong decision, your boss finds you and says, ‘What were you thinking? You are directly responsible for this patient having a bad outcome,’” Dr. Mohan said.

Dr. Mohan estimates 30,000 preventable deaths occur when patients are not promptly transferred to another facility.

“This was an educational tool. It was intended to be an adjunct to a standard didactic education,” Dr. Mohan said. “It doesn’t replace it. Absolutely not, but it takes the rules you learn in the classroom, and it tries to make them memorable.”

To go from start to finish, it takes about 2 1/2 hours of game play, but it could make an immeasurable difference in the treatment of patients in the future.