The 2nd Medical Education Forum (MEF) hosted from 4 to 6 May 2021 as a virtual meeting was an opportunity to review and summarise current research outcomes in medical education. It was organised by Jagiellonian University Medical College, McMaster University and Polish Institute for Evidence-Based Medicine. The live event had five speakers from the DID-ACT project (Samuel Edelbring, Inga Hege, Sören Huwendiek, Małgorzata Sudacka & me) and had 110 participants from 24 countries, most of them from Canada, Poland and Ukraine.
During the MEF conference, I took on the task of reviewing the most recent systematic reviews of virtual patients effectiveness. A review of reviews is called an umbrella review. Effectiveness of virtual patients is an important topic for the DID-ACT project because we use this type of education resources as a vehicle to deliver interactive exercises to practice clinical reasoning in the designed DID-ACT curriculum. To see how effectiveness is measured of clinical reasoning outcomes is also important to inform the DID-ACT project pilot evaluations.
I have identified in the recent three years five systematic reviews of virtual patients effectiveness. This included a systematic review I completed with my colleagues from the Digital Health Education collaboration in 2019. For me personally, preparation of the MEF presentation was an interesting exercise that gave an opportunity to see how much the results obtained in our former review align with the outcomes reported in other reviews published afterwards. To check it makes sense as systematic reviews often have unique scopes defined by the selected inclusion criteria, data extraction and synthesis methods and therefore may differ.
The reviews published after 2019 were carried out by international teams from France, New Zealand, South Korea, UK and USA. Only one, similar as we, included all health professions; the remaining focused on particular health professions: nursing, medicine, pharmacy. The studies either included all possible outcomes or selected a particular skill. It was interesting to see that the skill that was in particular in the scope of interest in syntheses in the recent years were communication skills. The conclusions of the studies were consistent across the different professions and topics. The studies reported benefits of application of virtual patients in education with hardly any exceptions. As Lee and colleagues (Med Educ, 54(9), 2020) concluded in their systematic review, the effectiveness of virtual patients can be even more improved when their use is preceded or followed by reflection exercises and human-teacher provided feedback. The technological features of virtual patient platforms were less important.
You may learn more about the result of my umbrella review, presentation of the other DID-ACT project speakers and the follow-up Question & Answers sessions as video recording.
The Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) is one of the biggest organisations focused on excellence and research in health professions education. It has been organising annual conferences for scholars engaged in this topic for close to 50 years. The interest in these meetings is rising and has reached the level of around 4000 participants last year. The DID-ACT consortium decided to disseminate its outcomes at AMEE by submitting an abstract informing about the results of the project’s needs analysis.
This year’s conference was originally planned to be held in Glasgow, United Kingdom, however, changes had to be made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; AMEE’s traditionally face-to-face format was adapted to be a virtual conference that rose to the challenge and exceeded expectations. Rather than following suit to mainstream reliance on primarily traditional audio-video teleconferencing tools, AMEE took on the challenge to host the conference in a virtual world. The virtual venue encompassed a group of interconnected locations with different purposes. A palm tree grown lobby with information booths led to several lecture theatres, exhibition halls, networking areas and poster rooms. The participants, prior to joining the conference, designed their own avatar and then navigated it through the locations meeting on the way avatars of other participants. The meetings enabled interactions either by typing in a chat window or an audio conversation. Participation in the events held in parallel conference communications could be interactive as well, enabling the audience to applaud, raise hands, and talk to the next-sited neighbour.
The DID-ACT submission was accepted for AMEE 2020 as a virtual poster. This presentation format involves constructing a digital “stack” of multimedia resources which could be presented either in a smartphone app or in a web browser. The content is organised in nested sections depicted as rectangular tiles, each containing resources as text entries, images, web links. Each conference presenter was encouraged to incorporate in the poster a short video showing a voice-over PowerPoint presentation giving an overview of the most important content. In addition it was required to prepare a one page digital print-out of the poster including a QR-code for easy access by smartphones from the real world. The DID-ACT poster was prepared by Andrzej Kononowicz, Małgorzata Sudacka, Felicitas L. Wagner, Samuel Edelbring, Inga Hege and Sören Huwendiek on behalf of the consortium. In the image below we present the poster print-out. The content is available via this link https://api.ltb.io/show/BWPMF.
The virtual conference was held from 7th until 9th September. Several DID-ACT members participated in the conference events and networked with fellow researchers. In particular there were several conference presentations around the topic of clinical reasoning. By the end of conference the participants form DID-ACT project decided to gather virtually in one of the exhibition hall for a virtual group selfie:
The conference contributions presented at the virtual AMEE conference will be available at least throughout the next year and by that enable playback of the presentations and sustainable project dissemination. Participation in the conference was a memorable event, impressive by its innovation and showing how far virtualisation of education and research can nowadays go. Despite the many benefits of the virtual conference, and thankful it was possible to be held in these troubled pandemic times, we hope we will be able to meet up at the face-to-face conference next year at AMEE 2021 in real world Glasgow to present the community more news around the DID-ACT project.