Game Developers Offer Interactive Lessons on Clinical Trials 1


Understanding how a clinical trial works is a learning process for patients and their caregivers. And, unfortunately, it can be a frustrating and confusing process when information about trials is not available in a format that’s easily accessible to the learner.

We’ve talked on this blog many times before about the potential gamification and visualization has in making clinical trial information more patient-friendly. We kicked off this series with a blog post about the NHS’s Clinical Trial Simulator, an online game that allows the user to take on the role of a clinical trial volunteer.  And, most recently, we blogged about infographics and how they can be used to present clinical trial information in a way that’s reader-friendly and easy to share on social networks.

Today’s post features another very well-designed and well-executed example of clinical trial gamification and visualization from Rice University called Virtual Clinical Trials. Apps like this one show the growing sophistication of these techniques and remind of us that there are more possibilities than we could even imagine.

Interactive Education

Virtual Clinical Trials is an online, interactive course designed by award-winning educational game designers from Rice University’s Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning. It’s aim is  to help high school students learn about clinical research.  It is one of six learning games available through the university’s Web Adventures initiative, that are designed to help science more engaging for students and teachers.

Though Rice’s application was designed with high school students in mind, the game could serve as a great introduction to people of any age who are learning about clinical trials for the first time.  For example, patients who are considering a clinical trial as part of their treatment program, but want a more in-depth understanding of how trials work before signing on could definitely benefit from walking through this fun and very comprehensive simulation.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the unique features available in this virtual clinical trial…

Virtual Clinical Trial Features

Your role in the Virtual Clinical Trial is that of a trainee at a clinical research site. Once you’ve selected a clinical trial on the website’s homepage, you learn that your job is to help the researchers design and manage a clinical trial, and will get to “meet” the people you’ll be working with, such as the research site director and principal investigator.

vct training goal

Each person that you meet teaches you about key decisions you have to make as a clinical trial designer, like determining the inclusion and exclusion criteria, deciding how many rounds of treatment are needed and selecting the patients who will participate in the trial. You even get to spend time “talking”  a potential volunteer through the trial’s informed consent document to make sure she truly understands the risks, benefits and details of the study.

Early in the simulation, you also get an opportunity to formulate the hypothesis being tested. Then, at the end, you get to take a look at the data and determine whether the results matched the hypothesis you defined earlier.

In addition to the trial simulations, the site contains additional resources,  links and tools to help students and potential clinical trial volunteers learn more about the  rules, regulations and bioethical principles that guide scientific studies involving human participants.

What’s Next?

What if patients had more options to walk through a clinical trial they’re interested in step-by-step from the convenience of their computer or mobile device, in order to gain a clear understanding of the requirements, risks and benefits before signing on? Might that level of customer service and transparency make it easier for the patient to make the best and most informed decision about their health and treatment options?

We hope to find out more about the range of possibilities in clinical trial communications through our Clinical Trial Visualization Re-design Challenge. As we speak, IT professionals, clinicians and patients are forming teams and joining forces to re-imagine the standard clinical trial protocol and informed consent document from a patient’s perspective.  Their ideas will be presented to the public for voting on October 17; we invite you to take a look and them and let us know which are your favorites.

If you’d like to enter the challenge yourself, there’s still time! The deadline for submissions is Oct. 2.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Play Destination Discovery « lillycoi

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