Asteroids® and Electrocardiograms: Proof of Concept of a Simulation for Task-Switching Training

West J Emerg Med. 2019 Jan;20(1):94-97. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2018.10.39722. Epub 2018 Nov 16.


Introduction: Emergency physicians are interrupted during patient care with such tasks as reading electrocardiograms (ECGs). This phenomenon is known as task-switching which may be a teachable skill. Our objective was to evaluate the potential of a video game for simulating the cognitive demands required of task-switching.

Methods: Emergency medicine residents took a pretest on ECG interpretation and then a posttest while attending to a video game, Asteroids®.

Results: The 35 residents (63%) who participated, scored worse on the ECG posttest then they did on the pretest (p<.001; effect size=1.14). There were no differences between genders or training level.

Conclusion: Interpreting ECGs while playing the Asteroids® game significantly lowered ECG interpretation scores. This shows the potential of this activity for training residents in task-switching ability. The next phase of research will test whether ECG reading performance while task-switching improves with practice.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Emergency Medicine / education
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Simulation Training*
  • Video Games*