Virtual patient simulation: an innovation in e-learning technology

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Published: 17 Dec 2014
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Carsten Germer - CompuGroup, Koblenz, Germany

Carsten Germer talks to ecancertv about the latest in e-learning technology at the 2014 European Continuing Medical Education (CME) Forum. He discusses the development of virtual patient simulation, and its applications in clinical practice.



Our company normally is in medical IT so we are delivering solutions for physicians, for hospitals, for pharmacies across Europe. We have acquired a company who is in this business already for almost ten years, we acquired them some years ago, and they had a very interesting product for virtual patient simulation. So we are now in this business for four or five years, approximately, and mainly in the university field and also in the CME field.

What is a virtual patient simulation and how do you go about making one?

There’s a system with a workflow behind it, how you can create virtual clinics, how you can create virtual patients, so that it’s really very close to reality. All the authors, we need the medical authors who are behind it, and there is an editing tool and they can edit the patient based on the workflow. So they can add files, they can add findings, they can add VEOs, whatever they like.

Is the idea that doctors interact with the patient as if it was as real as much as possible?

Yes, that’s true. So in a way you can tailor your patient according to your needs, particularly it’s interesting for rare diseases. If you don’t have these patients in reality you can create the virtual patient and you can learn about diseases which you normally are not seeing on a daily basis. So let me explain, for example, one of our largest customers is the German Army, it’s for the education of their physicians and they are active all around the world. They are in Afghanistan, they are in Africa and sometimes they are with diseases, a lot of injuries they don’t see in Germany in reality so they need to be trained and that’s why we’re using a virtual simulation.

How do you know how effective it is as a tool?

Of course we make some surveys where we always have an administration so we can see how long the people are using it; we’re making surveys about students, how much they like it. The thing is, even the students, everybody needs to get forced to really work with the tool. Just to tell the people, “Here we have a nice tool, work with it,” that doesn’t work. So the teachers, the doctors, they need to be behind it and they need to run a course and it needs to be an interactive blended learning course where they discuss about the patient. Just to leave somebody alone and say, “Work with it,” it’s not a good idea.

What do you think the future holds for e-learning?

We’re trying to work closer. There is already a medical simulation but medical simulation is very strong; we’ve figured out, at least in Germany, it’s, for example, an emergency in anaesthesia, in ICU, there is really very absolutely necessary that you do a lot of simulations. You should simulate things which you don’t see in reality. It’s like with a flight simulator you have to simulate those situations which are not happening during a normal flight, for example a fire or any kind of emergency case.

There we see a lot of potential and, for example, we are now starting a project in Germany which is financed by governmental funds for child abuse so that physicians can see whether the child was abused, whether it was a normal injury, whatever. So there are a lot of opportunities in the future.