Virtual Health Exam

Published: June 23 2009


The saying goes “practice makes perfect” and University of Florida researchers are putting that to the test using virtual humans. Medical students are using this virtual patient to conduct a breast exam, one of the most difficult exams to teach and learn.

Aaron Kotranza/UF Research Assistant: “Students have anxieties related to the intimate nature of the exam, as well as low confidence in correctly performing an exam because they don’t get a lot of practice performing the exam on a human patient.”

Medical educators write scripts to create the virtual patient and she communicates via speech and gestures. Each script focuses on a different medical history or fear. And with the mannequin, students can also perform a physical exam on the virtual patient; good practice for the future.

Aaron Kotranza/UF Research Assistant: “Students will treat will treat the virtual patient with a similar amount of empathy as they treat a human patient. They’ll actually touch the mannequin that we use in order to comfort the virtual patient which is similar to how touch is used to comfort a human patient who may have fears related to the breast exam.”

Experts who have reviewed the project say they expect this will improve students’ understanding and confidence in conducting a real exam. At the University of Florida, I’m Merissa Richmond.