Medical education in the form of video games isn’t new – the idea has been explored in training physicians for some time. But a new study offers insight into how video games can actually impact physicians’ clinical decision-making.

The study, run by medical video games company Level Ex in collaboration with CE Outcomes, found that video games led to improved knowledge retention as well as decision-making among practicing dermatologists.

Physicians in the study played a game called Top Derm, a combination of quick-hit modules on skin diseases, hair and scalp disorders and acne conditions. Modules – dubbed Pesky Pimples, Derm Hero, Zebra Cases and Visual Skinsations – involved medically accurate images paired with different matching games, such as asking the physician whether something was malignant or benign.

The idea was to give physicians a chance to play the games in their downtime – and learn a bit more about rare conditions or treatment options.

Level Ex VP and medical director Eric Gantwerker noted the biggest takeaway was the fact that older doctors found the games to be enlightening and engaging. The ages of dermatologists in the study ranged from 37 to 57. The average doctor in the study was around 45 years old, with 14 years of clinical experience.

“You’re trying to take people who are high on the learning curve, and push them even higher, which is difficult,” Gantwerker said. “In everyone’s mind, games are for young people, or medical students or residents. This study shows it’s not just for young people – it’s for practicing clinicians, who can do these quick-hit challenges at night or on downtime. Not only can they learn something and enjoy the game, but it will actually change their behavior at the bedside.”

The study found that 40% of participants improved their scores while playing the games, and 88% either retained or improved their score in the post-assessment.

Perhaps most importantly, 75% of participants said they preferred learning through video games rather than traditional continuing medical education channels. 78% said they would be likely to recommend Top Derm games to their colleagues.

For healthcare marketers, that means video games are one creative avenue for better reaching practicing physicians in their downtime, Gantwerker argued. Video games can offer learning opportunities about new medications, mechanisms of disease or rare conditions – and can ultimately influence clinical and prescribing behaviors.

“When the psychology and technology of games get applied to medical content, doctors will engage with it, doctors will learn from it, and doctors will apply it to medical practice,” Gantwerker said. “The games are generally in their workflow, in their clinic, on their phone at all times. In those scenarios, doctors aren’t in front of a marketer or a salesperson – this is on their own time that they’re opting in to engage in this environment, and that’s what’s hopeful for marketers.”