As early as the 1960s, the armed services, government laboratories and military think tanks began using the most modern computers available to create computer-based games for training, analysis and virtual warfare.

These simulations created a low-risk, yet effective way to test and refine military and political policies and prepare teams to undertake extremely difficult tasks.

In health care, our leaders also must learn how to operate in hectic, life-or-death situations. Out of necessity, medical educators became early adopters of computer-based simulation to teach the skills necessary to perform the latest forms of surgery and to use the most advanced equipment.

At Johns Hopkins, we’ve begun to apply simulation concepts to enhance health providers’ operational, communication and leadership skills and improve patient safety and quality of care.

Through a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Johns Hopkins’ Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality is making larger-scale simulation experiences available to health care leaders around the world. Collaborating with The Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory and Carey School of Business, the Armstrong Institute has designed a virtual hospital environment where teams of hospital leaders can practice their coordinated responses to patient safety challenges.

It’s like a melding of the popular military simulation video game series “Call of Duty” and the hit TV medical drama ER.

The Armstrong Institute presented this online simulation platform, called Simu-Leader, to 55 participants during a half-day, in-person exercise. They worked in a fictional—but realistic—hospital, going on simulated executive rounds, interviewing key stakeholders, and reviewing clinical processes and data.

Participants brainstormed solutions and decided which to propose in an organization with limited resources. They then received feedback on their ideas and got a chance to try again, seeking a better outcome.

This is a great example of how the Armstrong Institute strives to expand patient safety and high-quality health care at home and around the globe. Through this simulation, global participants had an engaging opportunity to learn and help ensure their institutions are ready to act when real lives are on the line.

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