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Arch Hellen Med, 27(5), September-October 2010, 803-810


Pilot virtual patient application in Greek medical education

1Laboratory of Medical Informatics, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
2First Clinic of Pathology, "AHEPA" General Hospital, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was the design and implementation of a virtual patient (VP) system, according to the latest technological standards for electronic simulation, and to pilot its use in Greek electronic medical education.

METHOD Two software programs, which were complementary to each other, were exploited, namely, VUE and OpenLabyrinth. Their application is based on standards proposed by MedBiquitous, an international organization that coordinates the use of free and open standards in medical education. The VP scenario is based on the strategy of problem based learning (PBL), and stems from a case of cardiological origin.

RESULTS The scenario was developed to allow learners to collaborate with a virtual patient through multiple contacts, in order to conduct various different examinations and to investigate different approaches in order to reach treatment decisions. The realistic VP content was further enhanced by the incorporation of multimedia material, thereby simulating real healthcare conditions and targeting the acquisition of clinical skills. The educational activity using VP was completed by the assessment of each learner's performance, achieved by a scoring system, and the provision of feedback.

CONCLUSIONS The implementation of the VP system provides users with the opportunity to practice diagnosis and decision making in a setting free of risk for the patient and the healthcare environment. This system can simplify the administrative effort associated with education and learning assessment. Although clinical experience with real patients remains a vital part of medical education, e-learning with virtual patients offers the means of extending this experience and compensating for practical deficiencies.

Key words: Chest pain, e-Learning, Medical education, Problem-based learning, Virtual patients.

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