Everyone knows that misunderstandings can cause trouble. But miscommunication in a health care setting can lead to serious risks.
That’s why researchers at Baylor Health Care System are joining forces with University of Texas as Arlington and the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) to study how physicians and nurses can use video game-like simulators to improve communication skills.
“Miscommunications can lead to failure in the delivery of safe care, so it’s extremely important to innovate and develop more effective ways to help our clinicians improve their communications skills,” says Yan Ziao, PhD, director of patient safety research at Baylor Health Care System.
He is co-leading the Baylor research team with Susan Houston, PhD, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC, director of nursing research at Baylor Health Care System.
Although it’s similar in theory to a video game, the learning tool uses even more sophisticated technology to create a simulated health care environment. Nurses and physicians will engage in scenarios they might encounter on the job, role-playing in real-time to appreciate the perspectives of others.
Participants will control and interact with physician and nurse avatars and master interdisciplinary, patient-centered communication skills. During the training, participants take turns playing both roles.
“We think this perspective-sharing will be instrumental in helping clinicians understand the best way to communicate inter-professionally,” says Louann Cole, MHA, a research analyst for Baylor’s Institute for Health Care Research and Improvement.
Part of the research has involved in-depth interviews with physicians and nurses, as well as an exhaustive review of communication strategies. This information was synthesized by game developers at UTD.
“Effective communication techniques are embedded in the game,” Dr. Houston explains. “You get points for using those techniques when you’re put into a patient situation.”
The researchers hope the three-year study, which is funded by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, will demonstrate the value of the technology.
“This is a fun and engaging way to learn,” Dr. Xiao says, “and we hope it will help physicians and nurses work better as a team to serve patients.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 edition of Baylor Health Magazine.