6 Ways Serious Games Improve Clinical Learning Outcomes

Growing evidence shows a significant link between repetitive practice, content retention, and academic performance—which is why forward-thinking healthcare educators are looking for concrete ways to jumpstart learners’ comprehension, intuition, and long-term retention abilities. Designed to primarily educate and secondarily entertain, serious games and gamified learning environments place users in an environment where “play” leads to skill development. Medical Simulation users must consider where and how “Serious games” like SimPHARM from Education Management Solutions can help.

Serious games establish game-based problem-solving parameters within non-game contexts, enhancing professional development and educational content mastery, and promoting clinical learners’ problem-solving and cognitive learning skills.

Game-based learning can be used within all types of healthcare education applications. Read on for five ways serious games and gamified learning environments improve learning outcomes.


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1. Immersive learning

Serious games and gamified learning environments are immersive and engaging, enabling clinical learners to feel like they’re building skills and completing tasks within an actual professional setting. This provides a powerful opportunity for learners to build skills in a highly realistic – and yet safe – simulated space.

While working within a game-based training environment (specifically, the SimPHARM clinical pharmacology simulation tool) one learner reflected: “You don’t know if the treatment is going to work. It puts a lot more pressure on you. I actually got to see how the drug was working and I had to think more deeply about what to do before making a decision. I definitely felt more responsible for my patient.”

Because gamification lets learners make their own decisions and understand what’s happening minute by minute, the decision-making process is reinforced, helping them go on to become confident professionals and practitioners.


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2. Enhanced learner engagement

Unlike many traditional learning modes, serious games and gamified learning environments are immediately approachable, and naturally enjoyable, for their use of cognitive rewards and dynamic feedback. This boosts learner engagement and encourages repeated practice (or play). Classroom peers and fellow healthcare professionals enjoy friendly competitions in comparing scores and outcomes, and giving and receiving meaningful feedback on skills, knowledge, thought processes, and strategic plans—and engaging each other with additional challenge rounds within the game.

Here’s another example of gamification in action: after training within the SimPHARM clinical pharmacology simulation environment, one learner commented: “SimPHARM is more realistic and exciting compared to paper-based cases. When using a paper-based case you try to imagine the process and outcomes, but it is hard because I had never been in that situation before. SimPHARM is happening in real-time and in real life. It is more realistic and felt like I was handling an actual patient.”

3. Interprofessional learning

Interprofessional education (IPE) develops clinical learners’ care delivery skills through simulation and experiential learning, helping them gain a deeper understanding of each team member’s role, as well as a critical awareness of how coordinated communication and decision-making improve patient outcomes. Leverage serious games and gamified learning environments to train on interprofessional decision-making, support multiple healthcare disciplines working on a single case, and allow learners to observe patient outcomes in real-time.

4. Anywhere, anytime learning

The flipped classroom model combines face-to-face interaction with online education, enabling learners to access course materials and practice independently while under the guidance of an instructor. And flipped learning is becoming more popular within healthcare education institutions every year, leaving instructors wondering how they can keep their learners engaged and practicing both within the classroom and remotely. Gamification is the answer. The challenge-based nature of serious games incentivizes learners to practice independently, repeatedly, and deliberately—anytime, anywhere—via a PC, Mac, or mobile device.

5. Improved comprehension, recall, and retention

Serious games and game-based learning environments deploy text, auditory, and visual cues to help learners better comprehend and retain content, and develop skills through deliberate, repeated practice. Learners aren’t bound by the safety and logistical restrictions of the workplace (e.g. developing clinical decision-making skills in an actual clinic), but are rather free to understand the context of their mistakes, retain and synthesize information, and boost in-the-minute recall within a gamified environment that safely emulates real processes (e.g. developing clinical decision-making skills in the game). “With the paper-based system you are given all the information associated with the case,” noted one SimPHARM clinical pharmacology simulation learner, “but with SimPHARM you have to think about what information is important to make a clinical decision on the case.” When used in conjunction with traditional didactic content and simulation-based training, these serious games help learners develop and retain the skills they need to become confident clinical professionals.

6. Real-time performance evaluation

What happened? Why did it happen? How would a different decision change the outcome? Reflection and feedback are implicit in the serious games learning experience. Real-time cognitive game-based education allows healthcare learners to complete coursework on their own time, experience the consequences of their decisions, and enjoy an enhanced learning experience through reflection. For maximum benefits, whether learners game independently, as a group, or within a competitive setting, they should immediately debrief their experiences and compare decisions with instructors and classroom peers.

Tools to Facilitate Gamified Learning: SimPHARM

Are you ready to bridge the gap between classroom learning and patient care? SimPHARM is a clinical pharmacology simulation tool that creates a realistic clinical experience. Built on mathematical models of the physiology of body systems that simulates real life reactions to diseases and drugs, SimPHARM allows learners to sense and feel the consequences of their decisions.

SimPHARM utilizes a dynamic Case Based Learning (CBL) model. The faculty/instructor creates a case in which a patient presents with certain medical problems. The learner begins the case by developing a care plan, initiating treatment, and observing the effects of the drugs being administered in real-time. The learner can then make self-reflective notes, document justification for treatment, discuss the material with the faculty/instructor or other learners, and complete the case with a final reflection.

Ideal for flipped classroom learning environments, the SimPHARM real-time cognitive game engine empowers learners to develop their clinical decision-making skills at their own pace while under the supervision of faculty. Train on clinical and therapeutic decision-making, support multiple interprofessional roles working on a single case, and allow learners to directly see patient outcomes in real-time.

About Education Management Solutions (EMS)
Medical, nursing, and allied health schools, hospitals, and counseling programs use EMS’ suite of products to more efficiently manage clinical simulation centers, effectively evaluate learner performance, and digitally document simulated events. As the leader in clinical simulation management technology since its founding in 1994, EMS provides a complete turnkey solution that includes integrated software and hardware, design and planning, engineering, configuration, installation, training, and support.

Learn more about SimPHARM today!


Today’s article was guest authored by Gwen Wille, Content Marketing Manager at EMS.

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