By Nicole MacKee
Experts are hopeful that a locally developed, innovative gaming app will help to close a significant gap in dermatology knowledge across a range of medical specialties in Australia.
Developed by a team of University of Sydney dermatologists, led by Professor of Dermatology at the University’s Northern Clinical School, Professor Gayle Fischer, Rash Decisions uses ‘gamification’ to engage users in dermatology education.
Dr Philippa Dickison, PhD candidate and app co-developer, said despite about one in five GP presentations being for skin-related disorders, medical students received an average of three dermatology lectures during medical school.
Dr Dickison said it was important to find an alternative way to deliver this education when crowded medical curricula prevented an increase in face-to-face teaching.
While some online dermatology training modules were available, Dr Dickison said these tended to be rather didactic.
‘We wanted something that was engaging and accessible and would be widely used by medical students,’ she said. ‘We thought an app that utilises gamification would be most appropriate because it would be convenient and encourage engagement through competitiveness. It also facilitates highly visual content, which is needed in dermatology.’
A systematic review published last year in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that serious gamification appeared to be at least as effective as traditional learning, and in many studies, was more effective for improving knowledge, skills and satisfaction (J Med Internet Res 2019; 21: e12994).
Guided by focus groups – comprising medical students, GPs, paediatricians and junior doctors – the researchers developed Rash Decisions, a 10-level gaming app that takes users through challenges to improve knowledge of terminology, investigations, rapid decision making, diagnosis and management, and referral.
The app also enables users to submit diagnoses on fictional patient cases and receive immediate feedback.
Users collect points as they progress through the levels and can choose to compete against others and be ranked on a leaderboard.
‘People can use the app at their own pace and convenience – you can be waiting at a train station or waiting for a tutorial and whip it out,’ Dr Dickison said.
‘The app isn’t designed to makes its users into dermatologists; it’s just to increase the knowledge of basic skin presentations,’ she said. ‘In light of the fact that we had so much input from GPs, we hope that medical students, GP registrars, junior doctors, as well as GPs and junior paediatricians will find it useful.’