Aimed at providing an opportunity to engage students in a manner that would improve learning, the faculty at the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), Delhi, has developed two Simulated Virtual Patients (SVPs) for medical students to gain clinical experience with simulation tools.
“Medical students in India are using computer-simulated virtual patients (SVPs) as a learning tool for clinical skills and are becoming more enthusiastic about their studies. SVPs allow students to interact with and perform procedures on pretend patients that are programmed to exhibit symptoms of illness or injury,” said Dr. Satendra Singh who supervised this project on i-Human Patients platform.
The initiative also has been published in the Advances in Physiology Education .
Dr. Singh said, “Due to a tight-programme structure, medical schools in India typically do not expose students to real patients until second year of study. Text-based cases teach clinical reasoning in the first year but do not provide the opportunity to practise clinical examination or develop the skills to take patient medical histories. In addition, the lack of early clinical exposure has been shown to reduce students’ enthusiasm when they begin clinical studies. This is where the programme comes in.”
Now being used for endocrine physiology, students in the pilot programme used a male and female SVP with classic diabetes symptoms to practice clinical reasoning skills, forming a diagnosis and developing personal interactions with patients by taking medical histories.
Three-dimensional representations of the SVPs provided visual clues to aid the diagnosis process. Each SVP included an on-screen guide that allowed students to use a virtual stethoscope during the exam.
After a two-week trial period of self-directed learning, the students scored their experiences with the SVPs on a five-point scale.
All activities scored consistently high, including questions about experience and interest.
Many enjoyed the tasks and felt the SVPs helped them prepare for their exams. Responses also indicated that SVPs provided variety in the learning environment and contributed to personalised learning.
“The research team imagines a larger role for SVPs in the future, not only to pique student interest and improve learning, but also to help students embrace diversity early in their careers. Our cases can be used by U.S. medical schools to understand cross-cultural issues (during history taking) as well as illness perspectives in developing countries,” explained Dr. Singh