A pilot study of user acceptance and educational potentials of virtual patients in transcultural psychiatry

Ioannis Pantziaras1, Olivier Courteille2, Richard Mollica3, Uno Fors4 and Solvig Ekblad1

1Cultural Medicine, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

2Center for Medical Education, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

3Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT), Massachusetts General Hospital, USA

4Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, Sweden

Submitted: 22/11/2011; Accepted: 16/07/2012; Published: 21/07/2012

Int J Med Educ. 2012; 3:132-140; doi: 10.5116/ijme.5004.7c78

© 2012 Ioannis Pantziaras et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate user acceptance, educational potentials and face and construct validity of a dedicated Virtual Patient system for refugee trauma cases, designed to enhance clinical, interpersonal, social and cultural competence.

Methods: We developed a Virtual Patient system portraying a female refugee - mediated by a still image and pre-recorded voice - that was evaluated by an invited group of physicians (n=9) working as residents in Psychiatry (n=8) and General Medicine (n=1). The participants were invited to provide insights/feedback about the system's usefulness and its educational value.

Results: Scores across our sample were high regarding the Virtual Patient system's realistic nature (median value: 5 on a 7-point scale) as well as the Virtual Patient's ability to mirror the course of a real clinical investigation (median value: 6 on a 7-point scale). The system was said to provide a good environment for safe training of clinical and communicative skills. The system's face and construct validity were also demonstrated. Proposed future improvements will include the implementation of detailed feedback from a Virtual Advisor and/or the Virtual Patient him/herself, the use of video-simulated patients and the ability to formulate clinical questions in free text.

Conclusions: This dedicated Virtual Patient system was well received by the participants. They appraised it as having a good potential for training in relationship to the clinical encounter and the management of traumatized refugees.