Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Virtual Patient Case Sharing across Two Schools of Pharmacy

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Virtual Patient Case Sharing across Two Schools of Pharmacy

Article excerpt


Educational technologies including computer-aided instruction, virtual patients, and mannequin model simulators are supported by pharmacy education accrediting bodies and widely used in pharmacy schools. (1-5) Virtual patients in particular have been used to help students develop the requisite knowledge and skills of the medical profession through independent, practical repetition, while providing educators with a means of granting student access to real patients. (4,6,7) Virtual patient technology is flexible in that it can be used across courses and disciplines and in a variety of teaching strategies. It allows students to emulate healthcare practitioners in a hospital environment without the risk of patient harm, and provides learners with immediate and specific feedback based on their performance. (8,9)

Despite these advantages, several obstacles limit the widespread adoption of virtual patients in pharmacy curricula. (10) Namely, the use of virtual patients can be resource intensive, requiring both monetary investment and faculty time. Licensing fees to access virtual patient software platforms can be as high as $75 per student and $1100 per author per year. (11) Additionally, faculty time invested in case design and development has been reported to be as high as 50 to 100 hours per case. (4,12-14) As a result, it is likely that collaborative development and use of virtual patient cases is necessary for further implementation and integration in pharmacy curricula in order to offset the time and monetary restrictions to single institutions. The sharing of virtual patients using a similar system has been proposed; however, data regarding the implementation of sharing across any health profession does not exist. (15-17) This project details the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of a collaborative effort between two schools of pharmacy to overcome the monetary and time commitment obstacles associated with virtual patient simulations in order to expand virtual patient use by students.


Faculty members of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (PCP) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy collaborated to expand the use of virtual patients in each school's curriculum. The goals of case sharing were to (1) maximize the return on investments of purchasing virtual patient software licenses by expanding each university's case library; (2) maximize faculty time investments in the development of virtual patient cases as 2 cases were gained for every 1 developed through case sharing; (3) to improve the validity and fidelity of the virtual patient cases through a peer-review process of the virtual patient cases and (4) ensure student learning of case material. Objectives developed to realize study goals were to (1) design virtual patient cases to satisfy course needs, (2) share completed virtual patient cases with a second school of pharmacy, (3) edit and modify shared cases to coincide with content and pedagogical needs, (4) integrate cases into the curriculum and provide case feedback to the second school of pharmacy, and (5) assess student learning.

Faculty used virtual patient software (vpSim/ DecisionSim, Decision Simulation, LLC, Chadsford PA) to achieve the project goals. Virtual patient cases developed through the vpSim/DecisionSim platform make use of a "branched-narrative" model, in which learners are presented with a challenge and given choices, and then provided with a consequence specific to their choice. Use of this model allows learner input to directly affect the outcomes of the virtual patient, where appropriate recommendations will improve the simulated patient's condition and suboptimal recommendations will worsen it. In this platform, students become healthcare providers, making recommendations in authentic clinical scenarios. A more detailed description of this platform has been published. (18) Public cases and further information also can be found at http://vpsim. …

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