How a medical app helped make me a better doctor

Medical apps are great for accessing medical content quickly, bedside patient teaching, and improving overall efficiency.

In the past I haven’t been able to point out an app that truly has the potential to improve a Physicians skills in a way traditional learning cannot — until now.

After-all, all the actual science and disease pathology you need to know is contained in textbooks and medical journals.  Mobility in the form of apps makes this type of content more accessible and palatable.

When it comes to real life application of this knowledge, it’s often said that real world experiences are where true learning occurs — ergo the 80 to 100 hours a week we spend in residency training for multiple years after medical school.

In order to help with “real life learning”, simulation has become a large part of many residency curriculums, especially Emergency Medicine — where simply learning the ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support) algorithm via a textbook isn’t sufficient.

Simulation is hard. Traditionally, simulation is done in some sort of physical environment. It’s done in cadaver lab, it’s done using dummies in the SIM lab. It takes a lot of time as well. Attending Physicians have to put in time to meet with groups of residents and medical students and go through disease specific scenarios. Facilities for simulation alone can cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Recently a remarkable app was released that uses simulation and gamification in the virtual setting of your smartphone to teach critical care scenarios.  It does so in a way no other app has before.

The app is called CPR game, and it’s a game changer.

The app is geared towards Emergency Medicine physicians, and goes through various ACLS algorithms — basically, what do you do when your patient’s heart stops beating?

But the app doesn’t do this in a boorish manner. CPR game uses gamification and analyzes your performance of critical care situations in extreme detail.

The app presents you with almost every type of ACLS and critical care case you can think of, and puts you in the driver seat.

It really is hard to put into words how well the app teaches you — and due to the complexity of the app, screen shots don’t even do any justice.

One of our Emergency Medicine Resident Physician writers did a full review of the app earlier in the week. One of her telling comments is below:

I worked on three medical codes in the emergency department the week I started playing CPR game, and I can honestly say that it helped me do better in those scenarios. It’s very easy to get lost in the chaos of a code. Prioritizing critical actions and systematically reviewing of the ABC’s is essential. Frequently practicing a systematic ACLS approach makes it easier to keep my wits about me during these stressful situations.

Being a second year Emergency Medicine Resident myself, I completely agree with the above assessment.

The app tests you on the types of interventions you perform and when you perform them. If you see a shockable rhythm, you better shock the patient within 10 seconds.  It even tests if you put pads on the patient in an appropriate time frame.  Did you give the patient Epinephrine on time? Did you get another line of access in a certain time frame? Did you make sure to check the temperature and glucose in a timely fashion? All this is tested and analyzed within the app. The The app is truly breathtaking.

I’ve been using CPR Game for the past few months, I can honestly say this app has made me a better physician and has significantly helped with my training in residency.

I’ll go as far as to state that if you practice enough with this app, CPR Game has the potential to save lives. 

iTunes: CPR game ($1.99)


Iltifat Husain, MD

Founder, Editor-in-Chief of Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Mobile App curriculum at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He is also the founder of iPrescribeApps, a platform for prescribing apps to patients. Dr. Husain has given lectures on digital medicine globally. He went to North Carolina State University for undergrad and went to medical school at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

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11 Responses to How a medical app helped make me a better doctor

  1. vinay September 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    How is this in comparison to android apps like acls 2011 and 2012 free and paid versions or the bhf similar app. Just curious to know how they compare.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD September 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

      Great question. I’ve used those apps before as I’m sure many in my field have — and CPR game is in it’s own league. The ACLS 2011/12 app have solid content within them, but they don’t give you as much control as the CPR game app does. The CPR game app puts you in complete charge — so you better remember to get that second peripheral IV, you better remember to put the patient on tele — it’s subtle things like this that make all the difference in a code. Other ACLS apps out there, including the ones you mention don’t put that much control in your hands, and don’t give you real time feedback as CPR game does. I’m honestly shocked it’s only $1.99.

      • vinay September 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

        Thanks. Will look out for this one if it congress to Android or a similar port

        • Iltifat Husain, MD September 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

          I believe the creators of this app are the same ones that made “10 second EM”. They eventually moved the app to android, so my guess is it should be available for Android sooner than later.

  2. tiziano strambini September 7, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Hi, if I download the app on my Ipad (I don’t have an Iphone) will I be able to use it? Will it retain all its features.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD September 7, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Good question. The app isn’t “optimized” for iPad form yet — so the screen size won’t be ideal, but you can still download it for the iPad and use all the features you would be able to use for the iPhone.

  3. Daniel September 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Great app but needs a few tweaks to be even better. Emailed the developers and asked if in a future update they would add in getting blood gases and x-rays. I take on board that a cxr isnt the most essential investigation here but was shocked that they said doing a blood gas is not recommended in acls. A blood gas can provide a lot of clinical information and can guide you treatment for example if the patient is in vf and is hypokalaemic you would give Potassium or evn give bicarbonate if severely acidotic.
    It would be nice to at least have a potassium.
    Pernickety but would make this an all round better app

    • iMedicalApps September 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      good points. could be argued though that pt is going to be acidotic since not perfusing correctly anyways and you better go ahead and give bicarb. although if hypok i see what you mean. let us know if they respond to you about these things.

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