Doctors at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital are using a video game to help them identity signs of addiction in their patients. The said video game, based on a previous research made by Dr. Michael M. Fleming of the Northwestern University Feingberg School of Medicine, is derived from the same technology used by FBI agents during interrogation. Already in its final stage of testing, the video game uses an actor’s voice to simulate a hypothetical conversation with a patient. The game generates responses based on the doctor’s questions, and the doctor must be able to identify indicators of possible addiction or abuse based on the simulated patient appearing on the screen before them.

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The game uses simulated dialogs recorded by Dr. Fleming when he did over 1,000 interviews with drug patients. “This isn’t something medical students have traditionally been trained for. These are hard conversations to have,” Dr. Fleming said. The game’s software was developed by Dr. Dale Olsen, a former professor of engineering at Johns Hopkins University. According to Dr. Olsen, the game could cost users about $50 an hour and mentioned that it is designed to be used for 10 sessions of 15 to 20 minutes each.

Olsen said that the game encourages doctors to adopt a more collaborative and less accusatory approach with patients, with the end goal to build rapport with patients. The New York Times reported that the Web-based interactive video game, which will soon be available online for a fee to medical schools and health care providers, includes about 2,000 statements by the patient, ranging in tone from charming to irate. A doctor can choose from 1,500 questions and responses, selecting one from five to seven options that appear on the screen when it is time to speak to the patient.

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