RVC cardiologists have developed the world’s first interactive virtual patients, hoping they will provide students with an interactive and challenging learning experience in a safe environment.

RVC eCardioA computer program comprising three virtual canine patients has been developed and tested at the RVC over the past five years, with support from Elanco Animal Health.

Through this partnership, the resource is now being shared with students throughout Europe, having been translated into French, Spanish, German and Italian.

Real life simulation

Students are presented with a virtual patient and a clinical case, and must conduct an initial investigation by asking questions, using a virtual stethoscope and obtaining test results.

From there, they work up their own differential diagnosis, problem list and treatment plans.

Meanwhile, a timer runs throughout, ensuring decisions are made promptly.

The outcome of the situation varies depending on the decisions the students make during the assessment, so effectively mimics real life.

Huge potential

A summary is provided, explaining the outcomes of the chosen treatment plan and how an expert would tackle the same situation.

Varying degrees of difficulty exist, making it suitable for any year. As such, the potential of the virtual patients becoming teaching and training tools is huge, according to the RVC.

RVC cardiologist Virginia Luis Fuentes said virtual patients helped address a common problem in education: examining the clinical problem-solving skills of multiple students in a fair and realistic way.

Risk-free realism

“The beauty of this program is it can be used for lots of different people, while still being a realistic way of approaching cases,” Prof Luis Fuentes said.

“It is often difficult to get clinical problem solving across and it is only when you are on the hot seat and having to come up with answers and decisions on what to do next that it sinks in, and these virtual patients are a way for people to experience that.”

 

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