The pharmacy school at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK is developing a virtual environment in which to practice skills that are hard to try out in the real world. The big idea behind the software is to use avatars to represent humans, and to give students experience in interacting with patients whose conditions are rare or which are potentially life threatening if not properly addressed by a pharmacist.
From Keele University:
Learners talk with the “patient” via voice recognition technology or by typing questions into a standard computer interface and the “patient” responds verbally or with a range of non-verbal gestures to indicate emotions such as pain, stress or anxiety. At the end of the session the “patient” gives feedback to the trainee about their performance.
The Virtual Patient can be used to explore a number of different conditions, including dyspepsia and hypertension. When ethnicity, age or gender are relevant to the treatment of the patient, the case can be designed to demonstrate to the learner how such factors are clinically significant.
The Keele team are now working on a £50,000 project for Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, developing a new set of four avatars for their new undergraduate pharmacy programme.
They have also developed a “virtual doctor” to help with the training of pharmaceutical sales representatives. The system can be used in a classroom setting or for distance learning via the internet.