Open Access Research article

Evaluation of an interactive case simulation system in dermatology and venereology for medical students

Carl-Fredrik Wahlgren1*, Samuel Edelbring2, Uno Fors2, Hans Hindbeck2 and Mona Ståhle1

Author Affiliations

1 Dermatology & Venereology Unit, Department of Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics (LIME), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:40  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-40

Published: 14 August 2006

Abstract

Background

Most of the many computer resources used in clinical teaching of dermatology and venereology for medical undergraduates are information-oriented and focus mostly on finding a "correct" multiple-choice alternative or free-text answer. We wanted to create an interactive computer program, which facilitates not only factual recall but also clinical reasoning.

Methods

Through continuous interaction with students, a new computerised interactive case simulation system, NUDOV, was developed. It is based on authentic cases and contains images of real patients, actors and healthcare providers. The student selects a patient and proposes questions for medical history, examines the skin, and suggests investigations, diagnosis, differential diagnoses and further management. Feedback is given by comparing the user's own suggestions with those of a specialist. In addition, a log file of the student's actions is recorded. The program includes a large number of images, video clips and Internet links. It was evaluated with a student questionnaire and by randomising medical students to conventional teaching (n = 85) or conventional teaching plus NUDOV (n = 31) and comparing the results of the two groups in a final written examination.

Results

The questionnaire showed that 90% of the NUDOV students stated that the program facilitated their learning to a large/very large extent, and 71% reported that extensive working with authentic computerised cases made it easier to understand and learn about diseases and their management. The layout, user-friendliness and feedback concept were judged as good/very good by 87%, 97%, and 100%, respectively. Log files revealed that the students, in general, worked with each case for 60–90 min. However, the intervention group did not score significantly better than the control group in the written examination.

Conclusion

We created a computerised case simulation program allowing students to manage patients in a non-linear format supporting the clinical reasoning process. The student gets feedback through comparison with a specialist, eliminating the need for external scoring or correction. The model also permits discussion of case processing, since all transactions are stored in a log file. The program was highly appreciated by the students, but did not significantly improve their performance in the written final examination.