When doctors play this game, you get better medical care

That’s the gist of an online game tested at eight Boston-area hospitals to see if it could improve treatment of high blood pressure by getting practitioners to follow recommended treatment guidelines.

Patients of the doctors and nurses who played the game over the course of a year got their blood pressure under control faster than those whose primary care providers were told to read educational materials instead, a “modest but significant” improvement, the researchers say. The results were published Tuesday in the journal Circulation.

How did they do it? By combining bad stock photos like the geezer gamers above, silly captions and multiple-choice questions on medication protocols. Hard to imagine, I know. So take a gander at the “ebullient 37-year-old man with a fear of chest-waxing” at left, typical of the kind of question players got by email. …

That’s the goal, says , a surgeon at the VA Boston Healthcare System and an instigator of the game. He and his compadres spent late nights on iStock, gleaning photos that would get people to keep opening the game’s emails. “You don’t have to give root canals to get people to do it,” Kerfoot tells Shots. “We hear all the time that people look forward to the next question.”