Background: The use of games as an educational strategy has the potential to improve health professionals' performance (e.g. adherence to standards of care) through improving their knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Objectives: The objective was to assess the effect of educational games on health professionals' performance, knowledge, skills, attitude and satisfaction, and on patient outcomes.
Search strategy: We used a comprehensive search strategy including an electronic search of the following databases: DARE, EPOC register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED, ERIC, and Dissertation Abstracts Online (search date: January 2007). We also screened the reference list of included studies and relevant reviews, contact authors of relevant papers and reviews, and searched ISI Web of Science for papers citing studies included in the review
Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials (RCT), controlled clinical trials (CCT), controlled before and after (CBA) and interrupted time-series analysis (ITS). Study participants were qualified health professionals or in postgraduate training. The intervention was an educational game with "a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules".
Data collection and analysis: Using a standardized data form we extracted data on methodological quality, participants, interventions and outcomes of interest that included patient outcomes, professional behaviour (process of care outcomes), and professional's knowledge, skills, attitude and satisfaction.
Main results: The search strategy identified 1156 citations. Out of 55 potentially eligible citations, we included one RCT. The methodological quality was fair. The game, used as a reinforcement technique, was based on the television game show "Family Feud" and focused on infection control. The study did not assess any patient or process of care outcomes. The group that was randomized to the game had statistically higher scores on the knowledge test (P = 0.02).
Authors' conclusions: The findings of this systematic review do not confirm nor refute the utility of games as a teaching strategy for health professionals. There is a need for additional high-quality research to explore the impact of educational games on patient and performance outcomes.