Tetris-like game helps physicians treat sepsis

By Diana Manos
10:40 AM

Researchers at Stanford University have designed an interactive case-based online activity to help clinicians prevent and treat sepsis, a life-threatening infection that takes more than 200,000 lives each year.

The online activity is called Septris and is inspired by the popular online game Tetris. The game runs best on iPad, iPhone or Android. On a desktop PC it requires Firefox 5+, Google Chrome, or Apple Safari. Internet Explorer is not supported, according to designers of the game.

Septris is used to help clinicians identify and manage sepsis, which strikes approximately 750,000 people in the U.S. Mortality remains high at 25 to 50 percent, at a cost of $17 billion each year, said Stanford researchers.

The activity provides a practical approach to early sepsis identification and application of evidence-based management and Stanford's Sepsis Guidelines. Interactive case scenarios are used to put these principles into practice. The game developers note, however, that the game is an educational tool and the clinical information found in the game is part an enduring educational material. It should not take the place of practitioner decision-making in clinical circumstances.

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The game is designed for hospital-based medical and surgical, intensive care and emergency department physicians and nurses. But it is also available online to all interested learners, Stanford officials said. Physicians and learners who meet certain specifications can obtain continuing medical education credit by playing the game.

Sean-Xavier Neath, MD, an emergency room physician at University of California at San Diego Medical Center, tried the game and “really enjoyed it.” It kept him on edge of his seat, he said. But aside from that, the game, which he prefers to call a tool, “has a lot of real life validity.”

The elements of sepsis are very well encompassed in the game, including tests and drug therapy. “Everything has to be kept in line for patients on the screen, based on your actions,” he said.

As an emergency room physician, Neath said it is common to treat 25 patients at once, but many doctors aren’t taught to co-process patients. In the game, a player has to move relatively quickly back and forth between patients. “It is a useful tool for learning sepsis didatics,” he said.

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Neath said he hopes the word gets out about how useful this tool is, and that it will help physicians to rapidly recall the fundamentals of treating sepsis. The game underscores how fast a clinician must act to treat sepsis effectively, he said.

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