Technology-enhanced simulation in emergency medicine: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Acad Emerg Med. 2013 Feb;20(2):117-27. doi: 10.1111/acem.12076.


Objectives: Technology-enhanced simulation is used frequently in emergency medicine (EM) training programs. Evidence for its effectiveness, however, remains unclear. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of technology-enhanced simulation for training in EM and identify instructional design features associated with improved outcomes by conducting a systematic review.

Methods: The authors systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, ERIC, PsychINFO, Scopus, key journals, and previous review bibliographies through May 2011. Original research articles in any language were selected if they compared simulation to no intervention or another educational activity for the purposes of training EM health professionals (including student and practicing physicians, midlevel providers, nurses, and prehospital providers). Reviewers evaluated study quality and abstracted information on learners, instructional design (curricular integration, feedback, repetitive practice, mastery learning), and outcomes.

Results: From a collection of 10,903 articles, 85 eligible studies enrolling 6,099 EM learners were identified. Of these, 56 studies compared simulation to no intervention, 12 compared simulation with another form of instruction, and 19 compared two forms of simulation. Effect sizes were pooled using a random-effects model. Heterogeneity among these studies was large (I(2) ≥ 50%). Among studies comparing simulation to no intervention, pooled effect sizes were large (range = 1.13 to 1.48) for knowledge, time, and skills and small to moderate for behaviors with patients (0.62) and patient effects (0.43; all p < 0.02 except patient effects p = 0.12). Among comparisons between simulation and other forms of instruction, the pooled effect sizes were small (≤ 0.33) for knowledge, time, and process skills (all p > 0.1). Qualitative comparisons of different simulation curricula are limited, although feedback, mastery learning, and higher fidelity were associated with improved learning outcomes.

Conclusions: Technology-enhanced simulation for EM learners is associated with moderate or large favorable effects in comparison with no intervention and generally small and nonsignificant benefits in comparison with other instruction. Future research should investigate the features that lead to effective simulation-based instructional design.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Educational Technology / methods*
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Humans
  • Learning