In the course of studying clinical medicine, the learning process takes place mainly by the patient's bed and the testing of student's knowledge and skills is conducted in a classroom, using written multiple-choice tests.
The interaction with real patients is absolutely essential, and yet it is often extremely impractical and presents obstacles in several areas: access to patients is limited by availability, time, circumstances, etc., and patients do not always represent the medical problems needed for specific teaching purposes.
Because of the above limitations, there is a need for a system, which simulates a specific clinical case, which is clear and well defined and which enables the student to learn this case methodically, step by step, from the initial anamnesis and through all the following steps leading to patient's treatment and follow up of his recovery.
As far as testing is concerned, it is common practice since many years already, that in addition to multiple-choice test, which mainly cover only theoretical knowledge, the students go through a clinical testing procedure. Such procedure tests the student's ability to conduct a complete case investigation, integrating knowledge and experience, field test results and his decision taking skills. This kind of procedures were originally conducted as an oral examination, still being used at some medical schools, but they suffer from several disadvantages, such as low reliability, and have been gradually replaced by multiple-station tests, like the OSCE exam, which also suffers from some problems and is usually extremely expensive to conduct.
Please watch the video below to see a comparison between the Virtual Patient System and a conventional OSCE exam: