‘Creating Virtual Patients’ Guide From MedicalExamTutor.com

virtual patients

Today HealthySim is sharing an excerpt from a recent LinkedIn article by Dara Devitt Byrne, Director of Simulation Saolta University Health Care Group & CEO of Medical Exam Tutor:

“Virtual patients are a unique form of simulation technology that have advantages over other methods such as manikin based or standardised patient simulation. They afford the learner the luxury of repetitive practice, recreating any clinical scenario (no matter how rare), and can be used by an individual learner in their own time or can be a cost effective way to deliver simulation based learning to large numbers in a classroom setting.

More recently they are being used to compliment other simulation based learning technologies and can promote a focus on non-technical skill learning and assessment in manikin based simulation. Virtual patients take the form of a computerised or on-screen patient represented in the form of a photograph, video or computer generated avatar. The initial outlay in their creation can be large but they can be cost effective in their longevity and accessibility. At Medical Exam Tutor we have created over 100 virtual patient scenarios and in this article we will offer some insights into the process, how to maximise your learners’ experience and how to avoid the pitfalls.

1. Source the clinical content from an expert

Working with consultants/attendings and other specialty experts is the best starting point for any virtual patient case. With years of experience, the consultant is best placed to advise on clinical presentations and complications, as well as having a whole host of practical advice which you simply will not find in a text book. This is the best way to produce validated content and ensure realism.


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Collect the clinical information in conversation with the subject expert. Using a template and asking challenging questions (“what if..?”) results in an engaging and reflective story. To achieve this, record the conversation and collect any laboratory or radiological data relating to the case at the time of interview. This is also a cost effective way for generating valid content.

2. Decide on a platform for your virtual patients

You will need a platform to present your virtual patients. It may be as simple as PowerPoint or a more complex learning platform like Medical Exam Tutor with high tech interactivity. Research the features of various systems carefully, keeping your desired learning outcomes in mind.

If you want to build your own in house platform, engage a developer with a track record in educational platform design and development. Sit down with them and discuss your goals, targets and finances. It may be cost effective to build your platform in stages but you should have a clear vision of the final version, so that costly rebuilds are not required along the way. You will find that as your platform develops and grows, you require more flexibility in your system, so try not to commit to a rigid system at the outset.”

Read the full 6 Step Guide on LinkedIn and then Join Our Simulation LinkedIn Group for More Great Content!


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