Thursday, April 23, 2009

Second Life and virtual patient interviews

So today was a special day. The study that we were working on for the past 3 months finally got underway - "Feasibility of using Second Life to train medical Students on patient interviewing skills".
So how does this work?
A medical student interviews a patient - both are in Second Life sitting face to face in an exam room. They "talk" to each other using headsets with microphones. They use lip-synching so when they talk, their lips move. They also use speech gestures so when they talk their hands and arms move around like most people in real life. The patient also has a number of pre-programmed gestures - crying, laughing, frowning, wringing ones hands, etc.
So why is this a good idea? Can't they just meet in some place in real life and do this? Can't they just talk over the phone?

They can meet in real life but that can be inconvenient. With S/L the 2 people can be poles apart! In addition, with S/L they are anonymous - the patient can be controlled by a physician without the student being aware of who it is. Also it can be less intimidating for a student than being face to face.

Does S/L add anything over and above a phone encounter? I sure hope so. There is good data that being in a MUVE affects spatial behavior. In addition the Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE) has shown that anonymity can have profound effects on group interactions. Does it make the encounter appear more real? We are interviewing the students to find out.

There are other advantages:

  1. The encounter can be captured digitally using software like FRAPS.

  2. The encounter can be viewed by anyone later - student or faculty. The faculty member can provide feedback to the student. Would be great to use VoiceThread for this.

  3. There are few geographic barriers. This could be offered as a service run by retired clinicians to train medical and nursing students in patient interviewing skills - a little bit like outsourcing your OSCE's.

As I was viewing the macinima of the first 2 patient interviews, I could recognize several teaching moments. What if we give this recording to a clinician educator not involved with the study, have them record their comments as annotations on the video (like VoiceThread) and then share with the student or even with other students?

The possibilities are numerous. I cannot post the machinima without student consent. Will write more about this once we get some feedback!