Otago Virtual Hospital

Image of OVH logoBilled as “… the closest you can get to being a doctor without actually being a doctor!“, the Otago Virtual Hospital provides opportunities to conduct care in open-ended case scenarios.
Students, as avatar representations of themselves, interact with a patient and relatives, as avatars, to provide an entire episode of care.

Screen shot of Otago Virtual Hospital avatars interacting

Who was involved?

Phil Blyth (Senior Lecturer eLearning in Medicine) thought up the Otago Virtual Hospital.
Judith Swan (Assistant Research Fellow) and Swee Kin Loke (Professional Practice Fellow) helped with the development work.
Funding came from a CALT grant, followed by an InternetNZ grant.

Why did I / We develop this piece of eLearning?

To develop an avatar based scenario to allow students to practice clinical decision making. The aim is to make the simulation
– interactive (by using role-playing, rather than artificial responses to history taking),
– sustainable (by enabling the simulation to run without faculty intervention) and
– open ended/unprompted (the only cues that students get as to what they should do, are the normal cues they would get in the emergency department (medication charts, radiology request forms etc).

Student gains:

A common student comment was about the opportunity to complete an entire episode of medical care, rather than just a part-task activity.

The best thing about developing this piece of eLearning was:

Feedback from students that this was the only place within their curriculum where they had complete and holistic care of the patient.
From having to enquire and sort out home situations; prescribe medications (down to route and dose), evaluate the results of investigations (which they had to remember to request in the first instance) through to writing the admission (or discharge) notes.

The Challenges:

Learning (some) Linden Scripting Language (LSL) was a huge challenge for all the OVH team. LSL is the code needed to make the interactivity we wanted to achieve actually happen. We used multiple web based resources to support this learning.

Keeping the servers running. Virtual worlds use a lot of computing power. We made friends with the Information Science team who host the New Zealand Virtual World Grid here at Otago.

Tools / Resources used in this initiative:

OVH is built on the New Zealand Virtual World Grid (http://nzvwg.org/), which is an Open Simulator (http://opensimulator.org) version of Second Life.

Google forms, part of Google docs, was used for obtaining and recording consent to participate and for requesting an avatar. Google drive (http://drive.google.com) has replaced Google docs, and continues to offer a forms option.

Other information / interesting info about this initiative:

The assessment potential of OVH is being investigated by a Masters of Health Sciences student.

Publications and presentations about OVH include:
In search of a method to assess dispositional behaviours: The case of Otago Virtual Hospital. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2012
Practicing Medicine – what is the role for Virtual Worlds? (#1096) ANZAME conference 2010.
Otago Virtual Hospital: medical students learning to notice clinically salient features.  ascilite conference 2010.

This post has more info Virtual Worlds and here is a link to EDUCAUSE’s 7 Things you should know about Virtual Worlds.

Want to know more about this project?
Contact Phil Blyth at Faculty of Medicine Administration

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