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Open Access Software

Hunter disease eClinic: interactive, computer-assisted, problem-based approach to independent learning about a rare genetic disease

Fatma Al-Jasmi1, Laura Moldovan2 and Joe TR Clarke234*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatric, Faculty of Medicine and health Science, United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates

2 Division of Clinical and Metabolic Genetics, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

3 Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4 Institute of Medical Sciences and Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:72  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-72

Published: 25 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Computer-based teaching (CBT) is a well-known educational device, but it has never been applied systematically to the teaching of a complex, rare, genetic disease, such as Hunter disease (MPS II).

Aim

To develop interactive teaching software functioning as a virtual clinic for the management of MPS II.

Implementation and Results

The Hunter disease eClinic, a self-training, user-friendly educational software program, available at the Lysosomal Storage Research Group (http://www.lysosomalstorageresearch.ca webcite), was developed using the Adobe Flash multimedia platform. It was designed to function both to provide a realistic, interactive virtual clinic and instantaneous access to supporting literature on Hunter disease. The Hunter disease eClinic consists of an eBook and an eClinic. The eClinic is the interactive virtual clinic component of the software. Within an environment resembling a real clinic, the trainee is instructed to perform a medical history, to examine the patient, and to order appropriate investigation. The program provides clinical data derived from the management of actual patients with Hunter disease. The eBook provides instantaneous, electronic access to a vast collection of reference information to provide detailed background clinical and basic science, including relevant biochemistry, physiology, and genetics. In the eClinic, the trainee is presented with quizzes designed to provide immediate feedback on both trainee effectiveness and efficiency. User feedback on the merits of the program was collected at several seminars and formal clinical rounds at several medical centres, primarily in Canada. In addition, online usage statistics were documented for a 2-year period. Feedback was consistently positive and confirmed the practical benefit of the program. The online English-language version is accessed daily by users from all over the world; a Japanese translation of the program is also available.

Conclusions

The Hunter disease eClinic employs a CBT model providing the trainee with realistic clinical problems, coupled with comprehensive basic and clinical reference information by instantaneous access to an electronic textbook, the eBook. The program was rated highly by attendees at national and international presentations. It provides a potential model for use as an educational approach to other rare genetic diseases.