Virtual Patients in Geriatric Education

Gerontol Geriatr Educ. 2010;31(2):163-73. doi: 10.1080/02701961003795813.


The virtual patient is a case-based computer program that combines textual information with multimedia elements such as audio, graphics, and animation. It is increasingly being utilized as a teaching modality by medical educators in various fields of instruction. The inherent complexity of older patients and the shortage of geriatrics educators have spurred the development of virtual patient programs to teach geriatrics at the medical undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. As an instructional tool, the Virtual Patient must be placed in the correct educational context to help educators identify opportunities for its proper use in the curriculum. In this review, the experiences of three medical schools in the development and application of geriatric virtual patients are described as case studies. In each case study, the challenges encountered and solutions developed are presented. Areas of future research in the use of virtual patients in geriatrics education include the determination of the optimal combination of features, the settings of use of virtual patient programs, the underlying pedagogy, and the limitations in its application in clinical instruction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / instrumentation
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Educational Technology
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Geriatrics / education
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Multimedia*
  • Software
  • Students, Medical
  • Teaching*
  • User-Computer Interface*