Level Ex upgrades surgery games to virtually train doctors to treat COVID-19

Level Ex, the maker of surgery games popular with medical professionals, has released new levels that virtually train doctors to treat patients with COVID-19. The COVID-19 levels are available for free through the Airway Ex and Pulm Ex mobile games on Google Play, coming soon to other platforms.

CEO Sam Glassenberg said his Chicago-based company received support from an educational grant provided by the Johnson & Johnson Institute. He said more than 600,000 medical professionals currently play the Level Ex games (users list their profession when they register).

These new game levels aim to help pulmonologists, emergency medicine physicians, anesthesiologists, and other health care providers prepare for challenging COVID-19 patient scenarios and make better emergency and medical decisions. The levels distill and disseminate the latest actionable COVID-19 information into game content, supplementing traditional educational tools, Glassenberg said.

He said that the games allow players to apply concepts preemptively through experiential, active learning. Level Ex’s new COVID-19 levels grant physicians access to “need to know” information quickly as they are thrust into new roles.

Level Ex’s COVID-19 levels are based on clinical guidelines, industry recommendations, and insights from physicians on the front lines of the pandemic. The company also sifted research from medical societies and public health organizations: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), Società Italiana di Anestesia Analgesia Rianimazione e Terapia Intensiva (SIAARTI), the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, Intensive Care Society, Association of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Anaesthetists, and others.

“What we focused on historically has been surgical procedures,” Glassenberg said. “We use game mechanics to capture the challenge of medical practice. That’s procedural stuff, physics puzzles, first-person shooter type mechanics. If you think about a lot of the challenges though the doctors face on the clinical side, they may face deductive reasoning challenges of diagnosing a difficult patient, or the strategy game of how to manage a difficult patient over time.”

The game lets the physician know if tests are expensive or time consuming, or if ventilators are available. That helps the doctor weigh decisions such as how soon to test someone. Glassenberg said, “When COVID-19 hit, there was a wave of demand from our doctors and other medical professionals to get something to practice. We scrambled to find the game mechanics to address the biggest need and started building it.”