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Virtual patient technology to educate pharmacists and pharmacy students on patient communication: a systematic review

Richardson, Charlotte Lucy; White, Simon; Chapman, Stephen

Virtual patient technology to educate pharmacists and pharmacy students on patient communication: a systematic review Thumbnail


Charlotte Lucy Richardson

Stephen Chapman


Background Virtual patients (VPs) are a sub-type of healthcare simulation that have been underutilised in health education. Their use is increasing, but applications are varied, as are designs, definitions and evaluations. Previous reviews have been broad, spanning multiple professions not accounting for design differences.

Objectives The objective was to undertake a systematic narrative review to establish and evaluate VP use in pharmacy. This included VPs that were used to develop or contribute to communication or counselling skills in pharmacy undergraduates, pre-registration pharmacists and qualified pharmacists.

Study selection Eight studies were identified using EBSCO and were quality assessed. The eligibility criteria did not discriminate between study design or outcomes but focused on the design and purpose of the VP. All the included studies used different VP applications and outcomes.

Findings Four themes were identified from the studies: knowledge and skills, confidence, engagement with learning, and satisfaction. Results favoured the VPs but not all studies demonstrated this statistically due to the methods. VP potential and usability are advantageous, but technological problems can limit use. VPs can help transition knowledge to practice.

Conclusions VPs are an additional valuable resource to develop communication and counselling skills for pharmacy students; use in other pharmacy populations could not be established. Individual applications require evaluation to demonstrate value due to different designs and technologies; quality standards may help to contribute to standardised development and implementation in varied professions. Many studies are small scale without robust findings; consequently, further quality research is required. This should focus on implementation and user perspectives.

Acceptance Date Nov 22, 2019
Publication Date Dec 11, 2019
Journal BMJ Simulation and Technology Enhanced Learning
Print ISSN 2056-6697
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 332 - 338
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
PMID 35515492


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