Virtual patients help dental students

Dental students are to be part of a new ‘virtual’ research project that aims to improve patient communication skills.

The students will meet Masha, a dental patient in a virtual dental office, whose oral health problems will continually change.

The middle-aged avatar is an integral part of a new US research project of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences department of communication sciences.

Kristin Z. Victoroff from the dental medicine’s department of community dentistry will direct the three-year Innovative Dental Assessment Research and Development (IDEA) Grant project from the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.

She will develop patient communication scenarios for simulated education and test their effectiveness in preclinical training for students.

Since 2001, the Case Western Reserve dental school has been on the forefront in using simulations in teaching the physical dexterity skills by using a technology called DentSim.

DentSim is a simulated and computerised training system that uses a simulated dental patient.

The attention has now turned from that technology to developing simulated experiences for communicating with patients.

The research project focuses on developing scenarios that aid and test students in taking patient histories, providing oral health education like tobacco cessation counselling for smokers, explaining procedures, talking about healthcare options and obtaining informed consent, and working through situations that present ethical dilemmas.

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