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Pharmacist Training Via Virtual Patient

Pharmacist training has joined surgeon training, and midwifery, on the ranks of medical professionals to be trained on patient interaction and condition diagnosis via virtual reality.

Enter Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom. The undergraduate based School of Pharmacy is undergoing a transformation: They are spending money hand over fist, on developing a basic virtual reality system to give their students hads-on experience at assessing patients in a pharmacy setting, dealing out drugs and withholding others, without risking the healthcare provision of actual patients.

The PC-based software, is not total immersion based - its restricted to a standard monitor display, but is no less thorough.

Top left: An example of the patient avatars. This instance was called Virtual Patient Shirley Park, however the same avatatr can be used with arange of AI personalities to create different patients.

Middle left: The virtual doctor in his surgery.

Bottom left: The virtual pharmacy environment, which serves as context for all patient interaction.

Learners talk with the artificial intelligence controlled patient avatars face to face, via the computer monitor. Voice recognition technology combined with natural language processing, enables relatively realistic conversations between patient and student. If that fails, as it sometimes does, then questions can be typed in, textually.

The artificial intelligence uses an emotional needs based system, and responds, not just with synthesised spoken answers, but with facial expressions and gestures, which the learners can see, and attempt to interpret correctly in context.

Once the session is complete, the patient AI steps out of in-character mode, and delivers a mentor style feedback to the student about what they handled well, and things they missed but should have picked up upon.

A strong advantage of the system in addition to this, is the range of avatars can be mixed and matched to the AI agent personalities. Keele are developing more avatars to increase the range. The same AI personalities can be assigned to any age group, either gender, or a range of ethnicities. If a student proves to have difficulties dealing with one group, they can expect to see a lot more of them, helping to train past natural prejudice, without sacrificing the range of patient personalities they deal with.

Professor Stephen Chapman, head of Keele?s School of Pharmacy, said: ?Training students to carry out one-to-one interviews is very resource-intensive as you need to get people to role play the part of a patient or doctor. It is also difficult to standardise the process so that the students all get the same experience.

?Using the Virtual Patient allows us to explore the full patient consultation and to let the student learn from mistakes in a safe environment that would not be possible in real life. For example, the Patient can be programmed to be allergic to penicillin and can suffer anaphylactic shock if the student forgets to check. It really hard-wires the learning into the brain in a way that is not possible with text books alone.?


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Keele: Virtual patient technology available for licensing

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