Richardson, CL, White, S and Chapman, SR (2019) Virtual patient technology for educating pharmacists on patient communication skills: a systematic review. BMJ Simulation and Technology Enhanced Learning, 5 (S2). A39 - A39. ISSN 2056-6697

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Background Virtual patients (VPs) are a sub-type of healthcare simulation that have been underutilised in health education. Their use is increasing but, applications are varied as are designs, definitions, and evaluations. Previous reviews have been broad, spanning multiple professions and without accounting for VP design differences.

Summary of project The objective was to undertake a systematic narrative review to establish and evaluate the nature of the literature on VP use in pharmacy. This included VPs that were used to develop or contribute to communication or counselling skills, or similar, in pharmacy undergraduates, pre-registration pharmacists, and qualified pharmacists.

Results Eight studies were identified using EBSCO and were assessed for quality. The eligibility criteria did not discriminate between study design or outcomes but focused instead on the design and purpose of the VP. Each study included used different VP applications and outcomes. Four themes were identified from the studies: knowledge and skills (including competency and ability), confidence, engagement with learning, and satisfaction. Results favored the VP but not all studies demonstrated this statistically due to the methods used. Comparisons between this range of methods were difficult due to the inability to make direct comparisons. Despite the varied applications there were similarities in that the VPs were found to improve users’ knowledge, confidence, skills, and competency. VP potential and usability were also highlighted as advantages, but technological problems can limit use. VPs can help the transition of knowledge to practice, particularly in Pharmacy undergraduate populations.

Discussion, conclusion, and recommendations VPs are an additional valuable resource to develop communication and counselling for pharmacy students; use in other pharmacy populations has not been established. Individual VP applications require evaluation to demonstrate their value as they use different designs and technologies. Multiple studies commented on a VP purpose as allowing an opportunity for practice, an already recognised advantage of VPs.1 Two particular benefits appeared to be that VPs can provide richly contextualised learning applied to practice, but in such as way so that the user can safely learn from mistakes. This is in line with ideas of experimental learning where the focus is on learner-driven investigations, often in pursuit of a real or artificial task.2 Many studies were small-scale without robust findings, consequently further in-depth research is required. This should focus on implementation into practice and user-perspectives.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article and all information related to it can be found online at;
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > R Medicine (General) > R735 Medical education. Medical schools. Research
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2020 10:38
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2020 10:38

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