Upstate News

July 19, 2004
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

SUNY Upstate opens Strategic Management Simulation lab to test decision-making skills in medical residents and children

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — SUNY Upstate Medical University’s has created a Strategic Management Simulation (SMS) laboratory to conduct research into the decision-making skills of medical residents and children.

Located in SUNY Upstate’s Institute for Human Performance, the SMS Laboratory is the only one of its kind in the world. The laboratory is directed by Usha Satish, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, in cooperation with Professor Siegfried Streufert, Ph.D., who created the SMS concept more than 40 years ago. Satish has been instrumental in adapting the product for use in medicine, both to help patients and to aid physicians toward more effective decision-making. The technology can be used to determine how a disease, injury or medications may affect cognitive function, predict individual and team decision-making, or enhance competency and assess and train decision-makers.

Adapted for clinical measurement, SMS-based mapping is used in a $500,000 three-year study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of National Institutes of Health, to explore decision-making and problem-solving abilities in children. In this two-phase study, researchers will use computer- assisted simulation scenarios to test and measure the abilities of children with normal cognitive function to make decisions and solve problems. The measures generated by these children will provide a baseline when testing the same abilities in children who have Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI).

Findings from this research, which is the first of its kind to measure multiple higher order decision-making abilities in children, will help educators to better understand how children assimilate and use information, and how they make decisions. The results of the research will permit the development of innovative learning techniques to help children with ADHD or mTBI and provide educators with the tools needed to ensure that no child is left behind in their efforts to become successful students, researchers say. Satish and Streufert are joined in this study by SUNY Upstate colleagues Nancy Roizen, M.D., and Margaret Turk, M.D., and by faculty from Pennsylvania State University.

According to Satish, the SMS laboratory uses computer-assisted simulations to assess decision-making performance and cognitive functioning. “The simulations present individuals or teams with scenarios that are equivalent to real world experiences,” she said. “Some of the scenarios present relatively simple day to-day problems that are fairly easy to handle. Others are more complex and challenging and even include a moderate emergency. While the simulation is going on, the computer simultaneously measures the participant’s response to each aspect of the scenario, assessing performance on 25 decision making parameters.”

The parameters include critical thinking, crisis management, flexibility in thinking, use of factual knowledge, team interaction, activity level, response speed, task orientation, contextual responsiveness, initiative, information seeking and utilization, emergency responses, sustained planning, use of strategy, response to immediate context and to broader context, and breadth of approach.

The simulation is also used by select medical residency programs, among them at SUNY Upstate and Stanford University, to assess competency and, if needed, to provide additional training to a resident in critical decision making skills, long before he or she completes the residency program.

“The SMS premise is based on the complexity theory,” said Satish. “A person’s ability to perform optimally and effectively is dependent on several competencies. Those variables became our parameters for measuring a person’s performance or decision-making ability.”

Satish and Streufert have used SMS for clients worldwide, including pharmaceutical companies to test medication effects on a person’s ability to function. Other SMS clients include Fortune 500 companies that use the technology to predict and train individual or team performance; healthcare facilities and the military to enhance overall productivity and leadership skills among its ranks and in clinical efforts to determine how diseases or disorders, such as schizophrenia, impact cognitive function. The simulation is also used by select medical residency programs, among them SUNY Upstate and Stanford University, to assess competency and, if needed, to provide additional training to a resident in critical decision making skills, long before he or she completes the residency program.

“The SMS p remise is based on the complexity theory,” said Satish. “A person’s ability to perform optimally and effectively is dependent on several competencies. Those variables became our parameters for measuring a person’s performance or decision making ability. Although we collaborate with focus groups and other experts to tailer scenarios that are appropriate for each SMS user, our measurements remain constant. Should the results of a person’s or team’s participation indicate that improvement is needed in one or more of these measures, we can, for some clients, offer training that will provide the individual or team with the skills necessary to improve their performance in any domain where their abilities are as yet limited.”

To learn more about SMS or SMS -based research, assessment and training, call 315-464-3114.

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