Video Game Helps Physicians Identify Prescription Drug Abuse

May 29, 2012 -

For many physicians, prescribing painkillers can be a dicey prospect.  The desire to help people in pain can sometimes conflict with the possibility that the patient may be abusing his or her prescription drugs.  So what can help health care professionals distinguish between patients who have a legitimate need for pain medication and those out to abuse it?

I’ll give you a hint – this blog is titled GamePolitics.

Based on Dr. Michael Fleming’s research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a new web-based video game seeks to teach primary care and family physicians how to interact with patients seeking prescription pain medication.  The game, which incorporates FBI interrogation tactics, guides players through a mock patient interview and scores them on how well they did.  Physicians can draw from a database of 1,500 questions and responses taken from real interviews Dr. Fleming conducted with more than 1,000 patients receiving opioids for pain.  With these interactions, users can inquire if the patient’s family has a history of drug problems, ask if the patient will submit to a drug screening and observe nonverbal signs of nervousness such as breaking eye contact, fidgeting and finger tapping.

The game was developed by former Johns Hopkins University professor of engineering, Dale E. Olsen and was financed by a $1 million grant from the Small Business Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Dr. Olsen said the game would cost about $50 an hour.  Users would typically play 10 sessions of 15 to 20 minutes each.

The game is in the final stages of testing and should soon be available to medical schools and as well as private and government health care providers.

Source: New York Times via iHealthBeat

Image Credit: New York Times

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen

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