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.
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.
Our overall hypothesis is that knowledge of patient-centred educational technologies in mental health education has the potential to:
Our current research encompasses the investigation of four interrelated aspects on the virtual patient in mental health education:
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.