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Is it possible to change behaviour virtually?

Lucid Ella NutallChanging behaviour requires a combination of science and art. As technology evolves, so does the breadth of mechanisms (the 'art') through which we can deliver science-based, behaviour-change interventions. As the number of mechanisms available increases, we improve our ability to tailor to, and impact, our target audience. This tailoring is what will ensure we don't just deliver interventions; we deliver interventions that change behaviour.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of 'virtual' technology as a mechanism to support delivery of medical education. This technology has been used to simulate a variety of medical experiences across the world - from human anatomy to patient consultations. With the first ever virtual reality operation due to take place this month - viewable live across the world - how virtual technology can be used in medical education is currently a hot topic for discussion.

At Lucid, we have successfully incorporated a variety of virtual technologies into our programmes to deliver behaviour-changing medical education. These include live-link sessions of surgical operations, which add an incredibly dynamic and interactive component to meetings. Live-link sessions also give delegates an opportunity for first-hand experience with cutting-edge equipment and procedures that may not be available in their countries.

One of my colleagues, Emma, has also incorporated virtual technology into a medical education programme. We discussed the potential benefits of using virtual technology to deliver behaviour-changing medical education.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of 'virtual' technology to support delivery of medical education

Virtual patient mannequin
Emma Herring, account director

Why was a virtual mannequin chosen?
Clinicians' ability to identify the correct patients for different stroke prevention treatments had been identified as a barrier to optimal management of non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF). We were looking for an engaging way to bring the consultation to life at the symposium - improving clinicians' confidence in identifying the right treatment for the right patient through live role-play of case-studies.

How did the virtual mannequin actually work?
To ensure the patient interactions were realistic, and scientifically compelling - maintaining the illusion of a 'live' consultation on stage - we used our knowledge of the most challenging case-studies faced by clinicians, to compose briefing documents and detailed scripts for the 'patient' actors and symposium speakers.

The patient mannequin used projection technology to create the illusion of a real patient on stage, and then the speakers acted out the two-way scripted dialogue with the 'patient'.

What value did the virtual mannequin add? 
It was the first time ever a virtual mannequin had been used at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) congress - attracting a lot of attention before the event because it was so eye-catching. The mannequin engaged the 1,000+ audience in the patient case-studies. When asked, 77% of the audience said they would change their clinical practice as a result of the event, and 94% felt confident, compared with 60% at baseline, about selecting the right treatment for the right patient with NVAF.

While the concept of simulation-based medical education has been around for years, virtual technology clearly offers the possibility of improving the realism, and variety of medical experiences that can be simulated - as Emma's example clearly illustrates. Using simulation as a delivery mechanism for medical education has already improved patient outcomes in a variety of therapy areas. And, with the technology industry claiming 2016 is the year virtual goes mainstream, using virtual technology for simulation - as a tailored mechanism of delivery - may become an even more viable option in medical education.

Nonetheless, it is important we are not innovating for innovation's sake in medical education; selecting new technologies for their 'wow' factor, rather than their ability to change clinical practice. In line with our in-house, five-step framework for designing programmes (featured in the March 2016 PME issue), the delivery mechanisms and the scientific content of medical education programmes must always be tailored and relevant to the target audience for them to be effective.

Therefore, we should be willing to think outside the box to incorporate delivery mechanisms, such as virtual technology into medical education - as long as they are selected because they enhance the impact our education has on clinical practice, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

Ella Nutall is health psychology specialist for Lucid Group

In association with Lucid

29th April 2016

From: Marketing

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