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BACKGROUND: Although smartphone-based clinical training to support emergency care training is more affordable than traditional avenues of training, it is still in its infancy and remains poorly implemented. In addition, its current implementations tend to be invariant to the evolving learning needs of the intended users. In resource-limited settings, the use of such platforms coupled with serious-gaming approaches remain largely unexplored and underdeveloped, even though they offer promise in terms of addressing the health workforce skill imbalance and lack of training opportunities associated with the high neonatal mortality rates in these settings. OBJECTIVE: This randomized controlled study aims to assess the effectiveness of offering adaptive versus standard feedback through a smartphone-based serious game on health care providers' knowledge gain on the management of a neonatal medical emergency. METHODS: The study is aimed at health care workers (physicians, nurses, and clinical officers) who provide bedside neonatal care in low-income settings. We will use data captured through an Android smartphone-based serious-game app that will be downloaded to personal phones belonging to the study participants. The intervention will be adaptive feedback provided within the app. The data captured will include the level of feedback provided to participants as they learn to use the mobile app, and performance data from attempts made during the assessment questions on interactive tasks participants perform as they progress through the app on emergency neonatal care delivery. The primary endpoint will be the first two complete rounds of learning within the app, from which the individuals' "learning gains" and Morris G intervention effect size will be computed. To minimize bias, participants will be assigned to an experimental or a control group by a within-app random generator, and this process will be concealed to both the study participants and the investigators until the primary endpoint is reached. RESULTS: This project was funded in November 2016. It has been approved by the Central University Research Ethics Committee of the University of Oxford and the Scientific and Ethics Review Unit of the Kenya Medical Research Institute. Recruitment and data collection began from February 2019 and will continue up to July 31, 2019. As of July 18, 2019, we enrolled 541 participants, of whom 238 reached the primary endpoint, with a further 19 qualitative interviews conducted to support evaluation. Full analysis will be conducted once we reach the end of the study recruitment period. CONCLUSIONS: This study will be used to explore the effectiveness of adaptive feedback in a smartphone-based serious game on health care providers in a low-income setting. This aspect of medical education is a largely unexplored topic in this context. In this randomized experiment, the risk of performance bias across arms is moderate, given that the active ingredient of the intervention (ie, knowledge) is a latent trait that is difficult to comprehensively control for in a real-world setting. However, the influence of any resulting bias that has the ability to alter the results will be assessed using alternative methods such as qualitative interviews. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR201901783811130; aspx?TrialID=5836. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): PRR1-10.2196/13034.

Original publication




Journal article


JMIR Res Protoc

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developing countries, education, emergency medical services, feedback, global health, health workforce, neonatal mortality, smartphone