Dipping into the Virtual Patient Pool at the University of Helsinki

By Supriya Krishnan

During the “Implementation of Virtual Patients” sessions at the 2nd International Conference on Virtual Patients and MedBiquitous Annual Meeting held in London, UK, Kalle Romanov from The Research and Development Unit for Medical Education, University of Helsinki in Finland described their Virtual Patient Pool (VPP).

The VPP is “a teacher friendly method of authoring virtual patient cases,” explained Romanov. This system was first introduced in 2007 to the 3rd to 6th year medical students. “The interface imitates the clinical workflow in a doctor’s office,” said Romanov, “and there is no time dimension.”

Each month a patient case, Case of the Month (COM) is published, and is available for 10 days to the medical students. The COM is optional for the student. It has the advantage of providing immediate feedback for the students, “and they are also encouraged to avoid revealing the right diagnoses to others,” he said.

The VPs allow students to perform extensive examinations, and the workflow for solving these VPs is as follows:

  • Interview
  • Physical exam
  • Laboratory
  • Radiography
  • Procedures
  • Diagnoses
  • Therapy

To date, Romanov and colleagues have published 26 cases, with 652 students using at least one COM. The use of these VPs have their challenges, for example there is a trend for students to abort the VP cases before reaching the conclusion.

However, despite these challenges “voluntary COMs are a suitable method for providing clinical simulations during the clinical years,” he said, adding that: “There has been an increase in their use, although the number of aborted attempts remain unchanged.”

“Students appreciate the monthly cases since they are the cases from ‘outer space’, beyond the limits of the curriculum,” he concluded.

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