Building a virtual patient commons

Med Teach. 2008;30(2):170-4. doi: 10.1080/01421590701874074.


Virtual patients as a form of educational intervention can take many forms and can provide highly effective ways of addressing reduced student access to real patients, the need for standardised and well-structured educational patient encounters, and opportunities for students to practice in safe and responsive environments. However, virtual patients can also be complicated and costly to develop. As a result collaborative and distributed development is best suited to their widespread take up. This paper considers the development and use of virtual patients and the steps that have been taken to support authors in making this approach more sustainable and adaptable. In particular, this has involved the development of a common data interoperability standard, which in turn has engaged a number of communities that have developed, or are developing, virtual patient commons, consisting of shared resources, tools and knowledge for mutual benefit. The paper illustrates how innovative and otherwise difficult to sustain models for supporting and extending healthcare education, such as virtual patients, can be supported using a commons approach with commonly agreed data standards and specifications at their core.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation / standards*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient Simulation*
  • Software Design
  • User-Computer Interface