The development of interactive virtual patient simulations for an undergraduate medical psychiatry module

Holloway, P., Malone, K., Last, J. and Guérandel, A. (2013) The development of interactive virtual patient simulations for an undergraduate medical psychiatry module. In: 6th scientific meeting of the Irish Network of Medical Educators (INMED), 21st February to Friday 22nd February 2013, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


Introduction Patient simulations may offer some solutions to the challenges posed to medical education by changing patterns of patient care but actors and patient simulators help but can be costly and impractical, text-based branching clinical vignettes can lack the necessary fidelity for engagement and watching video encounters can lack the necessary agency to make them optimally effective. We have developed a suite of 9 virtual patients to help students to get more benefit from actual patient and tutor encounters. • Materials and methods • Core functionality for the resources was defined through consultation. • The development process was iterative with multiple reviews. • Scripts were developed by multiple subject matter experts. • As a pilot project use of 4 virtual patients was integrated into the curriculum and the students’ reflections on these encounters were formally assessed in meetings with their tutors. The documentation from these assessment meetings was used to infer the students’ attitudes towards and experiences of the virtual patients. RESULTS 182 students were given access to the resource and all used it. Feedback was available from 155 students. Each student was required to cite at least one aspect of each of the 4 cases that they found difficult and at least one aspect that they found straightforward. There were 28 statements (of a minimum of 728) that cited technical difficulties or that questioned the relevance of the activities. 28 students (15%) stated that they found the structured and thorough nature of the first clinical lab helpful. 81 (45%) of the students stated that they found it difficult to construct a formulation. However, 36 of those 81 (20% of the total) went on to state that in subsequent exercises they now found formulation straightforward. CONCLUSION It is feasible to create virtual patients that appear, at this stage, to be usable and acceptable to students and aid learning of case formulation. However, more formal assessment of student attitudes and educational impact is required.

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