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Cardio Ex App: For Cardiology

For medical education, education as a whole is changing… So we need new ways to teach students to grasp more and more material

- Dr. Atman Shah, University of Chicago 2020

(Image from gameplay)


Introducing Cardio Ex—a mobile game that allows for healthcare providers and students enrolled in cardiology classes to apply theory learned in their programs into practice. One of the most beneficial features of the game is that there are no real life consequenceseverything is virtual! This is especially important during these trying times, where cadavers might not be as easily accessible. Students can now apply their understanding from the comfort of their homes! Additionally, the app offers different learning strategies for medical professionals to use skills learned in class. On that note, it is recommended that those who are in cardiology use these apps, as they would benefit the most. This would include physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and respiratory therapists.


The app provides medical professionals with the opportunity to apply their knowledge in different ways, which can be found in the three game modes—Diagnosis, Treatment, and Interventional. With these branches, the user can develop their deductive reasoning and decision making skills, as well as learn new skills in the process.

In Interventional Mode, the user completes challenges by solving puzzles which consist of life-like visuals of the heart. Treatment Mode allows demonstration of a user’s patient management skills. Lastly, Diagnosis mode tests the users analytical skills, as are required to eliminate as many likely diseases as possible during a diagnosis.

The app is accessible for anyone. However, since the app is primarily made for medical professionals, there are additional benefits that might not aid the average person. For instance, Cardio Ex provides opportunities to take part in Continuing Medical Education programs or CME's. This is helpful for those who need to maintain their active license, which needs to be filled on a yearly basis. These programs can be found in the app, and the user may receive notifications when these opportunities arrive. On top of that, the app also asks the user to identify their specialty, so that the challenges and testing materials they receive can be specific towards their major. The app has a wide selection of topics, ranging from anesthesiology, which is a category of medicine regarding anaesthesia, to critical care and to family medicine.


The app may seem like a fictitious game, but the challenges in which the user encounters are as similar to real life as possible! A user may encounter a situation in which they have to treat a patient who has been rushed into the ER. Just like a specialist, they would have to figure out what is wrong with the patient based on the information provided and that the triage staff will give you . Each challenge is based on real life, so the user can gain a greater understanding of terms they have learned in class, as well as exercise their ability to make the best choices in each situation.

For example, one of the tests the user might receive is called Faltering Response in the Diagnosis game mode. In this example, the user is tasked with determining which out of the many diseases the male thirty nine year-old patient might have. By performing tests such as chest x-rays or using OPQRST style questions, one can eliminate multiple possible disorders. Asking simple questions—such as whether or not they feel pain in their chest—could also result in several diseases being eliminated. The user will have to think carefully about which choices they make, since they have a limited amount they can perform; an option might take away “action points” which is meant to limit the number of things that can be done each turn. At the end of each trial, the user is provided a link and an overview on the app to the actual case report, so that they can get a better understanding of the case they completed.

In Treatment mode, another case includes prescribing a patient the correct medication to ease their condition based on their disease. The user's actions can incite different responses from the patient, which could be aiding or detrimental to the patient's health. In this example, the patient was diagnosed with HTG, or Postprandial high triglyceride, which contributes heavily to cardiovascular disease. They also require further treatment for hypertriglyceridemia or persistent TG elevation which increases lipids in the blood, putting the patient at risk for a heart attack or a stroke. Thus, it is important for the player to pay attention to which medications have an advantageous effect on the patient’s health. If action points reach zero, it's game over.

Lastly in the Interventional mode, the user is introduced to tools connected to wires that assist with problems regarding the heart. The interface is much more different than the other two modes, as can be seen in the image below:

In more advanced levels, the player may need to use their decision making skills when dealing with calcified plaque, which is calcium build up in the valves and arteries, and bifurcation lesions, which are the build-up of plaque in the spaces between two branches. The player will also be able to use materials such as balloons and aspiration catheters.

Apps in the classroom

As technology evolves, learning strategies seem to evolve along with them. In an interview conducted by the University of Chicago, Dr. Atman Shah comments on why a video game might serve as a helpful training tool for cardiologists.

Dr. Shah explains,

Our brains are more attuned to electronic stimuli...we get a right answer, we get a dopamine surge. You know when we have a dopamine surge we are more likely to form a positive memory and retain that fact.

When asked by WGNTV if this app could provide some “real life experience with a patient”, Shah answered that it gives physicians the opportunity to open themselves up to new situations, so when encountering those new problems, physicians may know how to best treat their patient. Since the app is constantly offering new case studies and reports, medical professionals have a vast amount of practice material.

Final note

To conclude, Cardio Ex is an amazing tool that offers free and helpful opportunities for medical professionals looking to enhance their skills. Perhaps in the future, these types of applications will be a part of every medical professional’s curriculum.


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Article Author: Idil Mohamed Gure

Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Maria Giroux