eViP aims to create a bank of 320 repurposed and enriched virtual patients that will be freely available under the Creative Commons License.
This is no small feat. Virtual patients come in all shapes and sizes, they have a wide range of applications for different users, and all have various technical specifications.
For example the virtual patient players used in eViP – CASUS, CAMPUS, OpenLabyrinth and Web-SP – range from being linear, semi-linear to branched models.
This presents difficulties when repurposing virtual patients from one system to another.
MedBiquitous and eViP
This where the partnership between eViP and MedBiquitous comes in. MedBiquitous was founded by John Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland and is a consortium of leading institutions, commercial and non-commercial organisations dedicated to advancing healthcare education using technology standards.
Valerie Smothers (pictured above) is the Deputy Director of MedBiquitous. As she explains: “MedBiquitous provides neutral ground to develop a common technical language, and a lot of innovation can happen here.” Which is exactly what happened when MedBiquitous teamed with St George’s University of London to form MedBiquitous Europe.
This collaboration aims to promote the use of MedBiquitous technical standards for healthcare education throughout Europe, and these technical standards are being employed by the eViP programme.
Why are technical standards so vital to developing virtual patients?
“If a university was to undertake the development of all the virtual patients needed to fully support their curriculum, they would find it very expensive and time consuming,” says Valerie. “With technical standards institutions can pool their resources and share activities across different systems.”
“We have a draft spec that the MedBiquitous Virtual Patient Working Group developed,” she adds. “In addition to eViP partners, the group includes several universities in the US and Canada.”
“All agreed that this was the technical format, and eViP have implemented this format in their systems and used it to share their activities across institutional and national boundaries. This sets a precedent which is certainly going to be followed.”
Looking to the future!
And on the value of virtual patients, Valerie is undoubtedly enthusiastic, “The value is huge! I don’t think I can overstate it. Virtual patients are such an important form of education. Often students don’t have the opportunity to see certain types of patients, but at least they can see them virtually. It also lets them practice.”
And we haven’t yet touched the surface, as Valerie explains. “We’re just starting to research the use of virtual patients, how we can best leverage them for different educational purposes. And this is fuelled by projects like eViP.”
We can expect more interest in virtual patients in the near future. “There is a large pool of virtual patient activities in European institutions and this draws attention to virtual patients as a medium. I think the use of virtual patients is going to increase worldwide.”
“It’s hard to look into the crystal ball,” she continues. “But I do think there will be more emphasis on virtual patients and simulation for patient safety purposes. Increasingly, more learning technologies are being integrated into the curriculum. Soon we will see more of these technologies working together in ways that benefit the learner.”