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Education game helps doctors manage high blood pressure more effectively

Education game helps doctors learn to treat
high blood pressure

A new study from the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests doctors could learn best practices more quickly if they were taught the material as a game played for a few minutes every day rather than by spending an hour or two learning the material in one sitting.

The researchers recruited 111 primary care physicians at VA medical centers in New England and assigned half of them to learn about blood pressure management via an interactive online game and the other half to receive the same information as materials posted on a website. They found that the physicians who played the game — answering questions spaced out every three days for several months — were able to get their patients’ hypertension under control in an average of 142 days, compared with 148 days for the physicians who read the materials on the Web.

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Findings were published last week in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The “spaced-education” game was developed by Qstream, a medical education startup company launched in 2008 by Harvard. About 700 medical residents in the Boston area are currently using a different Qstream game to help them learn the skills to interpret electrocardiograms to detect heart attacks.

“Residency programs are competing against each other as part of the game,” said Dr. B. Price Kerfoot, a staff surgeon at Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System who led the blood pressure study and is an owner and director of Qstream. “Residents tell us they play it on their phone while waiting in line at Starbucks.” D.K.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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