Aarhus Universitets segl

PACET: A Joint Collaboration on Patient-Centred Educational Technologies

The PACET project explores the educational use and didactic construct of virtual patients. Our particular interest is to study their influences on student’s patient-centred learning in their transition to clinical learning and practice.  

In this project, we define virtual patients as e-mediated video-filmed simulations of interpersonal meetings with patients. Research suggests that virtual patients have the potential to stimulate patient-centred learning. The argument for using virtual patients in clinical teaching relies on the format’s ability to depict a phenomenologically rich perspective of the patient and clinician’s personal experiences together with its enhanced authenticity. This includes the integration of basic medical knowledge with the expression of symptoms.

Patient-centeredness is widely accepted as a core component for quality in health care that is responsive to the needs and values of patients, coherence in care, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Yet, there is a scarcity of studies to guide best practices for integrating patient-centred educational technologies among students in health sciences. PACET addresses this area of research.

While PACET has a particular focus on mental health education, our findings should be transferable to other patient groups.

Previous findings

In a qualitative intervention study (Pedersen et al., 2017), we found didactical use of virtual patients could foster patient-centred perspectives in medical students. A follow-up quantitative study showed how virtual patients improved medical students’ self-efficacy in patient-centeredness (Pedersen et al., 2019). An explorative qualitative study (Pedersen et al., 2020) suggests that anthropological liminality theory may inform our understanding of students’ learning with virtual patients. A reflective case study (Pedersen 2021) has further unfolded the potential of liminality as a theoretical framework in developing and understanding virtual patients as a patient-centred technology.

Project hypothesis

Our overall hypothesis is that knowledge of patient-centred educational technologies in mental health education has the potential to:

  • Guide best practices in didactic development and integration of virtual patients
  • Promote psychopathological conceptualization for doctors, nurses, and psychologists
  • Increase clinical performance in regards to diagnostic accuracy and interdisciplinary teamwork. 


Our current research encompasses the investigation of four interrelated aspects on the virtual patient in mental health education:

  1. A systematic review examines studies of educational interventions using virtual patients in undergraduate health sciences education that report on students’ learning outcomes.
  2. A virtual patient in acute psychiatry (e-mediated in virtual reality) is developed and analyzed regarding its didactic construct using an experiential and constructionist approach.
  3. A mixed-methods study explores students learning experiences with two different virtual patient formats with influence on their psychopathological understandings and definitions.
  4. A randomized control study measures how patient-centred learning from a virtual patient impact students’ skills in diagnostic accuracy.


Our findings will contribute to understanding how virtual patients prepare health sciences students for meeting patients in authentic clinical settings to uncover their contribution to the learning of a patient-centred approach and its effect on patient outcomes. In addition, we anticipate that the project will contribute to a knowledge base for educational researchers and decision-makers in considering using educational technologies in health science education with requirements for their didactic design. Thus, the project is crucial for gaining knowledge about technology-supported teaching in health science education concerning patient treatment in clinical practice.

Read more

  • Pedersen, K., A. Bennedsen, B. Rungø, C. Paltved, A. M. Mørcke, C. Ringsted, and O. Mors. 2019. “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Video Cases to Improve Patient-Centeredness in Psychiatry: A Quasi-Experimental Study.” International Journal of Medical Education 10: 195–202. https://doi.org/10.5116/ijme.5d9b.1e88.
  • Pedersen, Kamilla, Anne Mette Mørcke, Charlotte Paltved, Ole Mors, and Charlotte Ringsted. 2021. “Video Cases as Tricksters, in Medical Students´ Transition to Psychiatric Clerkship. A Liminal Perspective.” MedEdPublish 10 (1): 1–15. https://doi.org/10.15694/mep.2021.000095.1.
  •  Pedersen, K. 2021. “Manuskripter Til Psykiatriske Patientcases: Om at Forfatte En Videopatientcase Til Undervisning i Klinisk Psykiatri.” In Skrivning Og Sundhed, edited by S. Jespersen, M. Gammelgaard, L. Uldbjerg, 1st ed., 83–102. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitets Forlag.