General Practitioners in Australia see one million presentations of skin cancer per year. In fact, 1 in 5 GP appointments are for dermatological reasons. Considering how predominant dermatology is in practised medicine, it’s surprising that Australian medical students receive an average of 3 dermatology-specific lectures during their entire degree unless they specialise.
These facts highlight a disparity between the quality of dermatology education and the real-world demand for it. Comprehension is still mostly assessed using pen-and-paper examination techniques. For a highly visual specialty, there are very few online resources containing imagery of real-world conditions, which could be used to train and improve diagnostic accuracy.
Our client, Dr. Philippa Dickison, explains the need for a better solution in the video below.
How could we apply game design principles to dermatology course content? How could we hold the tertiary students attention with notoriously dry subject matter (no skin puns intended)? Following that, how do we measure whether the tool is as effective or more effective than existing techniques at training young doctors?
These were the key questions that we had to answer when Philippa approached us. The measurement and analysis of the results was particularly important, as the data was to be the basis of Philippa’s doctorate thesis.
We designed and developed a pair of applications: a web app for clinicians, and a mobile app for students.
Clinicians used the online content management system (CMS) to design fictional patient cases with questions and real-world imagery. These patient cases were similar to what a student would see in on-the-job training, but with streamlined information. New questions and patients are drafted, then once published, are immediately available to students.
The mobile app was designed for students and functions like an interactive quiz with scoring, reputation, and avatar mechanics. The content was organized into a simple mastery system that ensured students learned dependent content first and once covered, they are prompted with refresher questions to keep their knowledge up-to-date.
We have a highly visual speciality of dermatology, coupled with the ability to create a virtual world with high-quality images. I propose to break the wall of dermatology education by exploiting not only the convenience and accessibility of e-learning, but also the engaging and entertaining aspects of video games.
A CMS That Feels Like a Second Skin
Instead of trying to extract subject matter expertise from clinicians, we created an online CMS where doctors could create and organise the app’s content.
- We consulted with Philippa to create a template for what a fictional patient case would look like, and what the important dermatological details were e.g. age, skin tone, gender.
- Doctors and educators are able to design and categorise the content themselves.
- Questions could be re-used across multiple patients, and concepts that required repetitive training were identified so that they could be shown to students more frequently.
- Key questions could be identified and used to block player’s progress until they had been answered correctly, to ensure core concepts were understood.
Real Images = Real Training
The most useful training tool for students is a large amount of exposure to pre-existing conditions, which improves future diagnostic accuracy.
Through our partnership with the University of Sydney, we had access to a large database of anonymised images and developed a way of classifying them based on dermatological markers.
- Our online media gallery can be instantly filtered by skin type, gender, age and tagged with specific conditions for ease of reference.
- Images are paired with most patient questions as they were essential in diagnosing skin conditions or testing students understanding of terminology.
- Image thumbnails are downloaded and cached on mobile to reduce data consumption, and HD versions are available on-demand through a globally distributed content delivery network.
One of the biggest challenges to increasing the use of games and interactive tools in the classroom is verifying that they actually work. The existing tools (exams, reports, etc) have a long history with educator-backed results, and our solution needed to measure learning success too.
- Every question a player answers is measured, which helps identify trends in which questions players are answering correctly vs. incorrectly.
- This data can be used to improve the quality of the questions (in case the interpretation was ambiguous), or the quantity of the questions (in case the concepts weren’t being picked up fast enough) to ensure a smoother learning curve that leaves fewer students with knowledge gaps.
- Identifying these problems leads to better content mastery, as players are recommended questions that they previously answered incorrectly.
Rash Decisions is due for an early-2018 public release, but has already picked up the expert panel choice award at the Galderma SKINPACT Awards. We are looking forward to continuing to work with Philippa and the University of Sydney to refine their future course content.