Published: 30 Aug 2016 | Last Updated: 10 Aug 2023 15:44:12

Leading clinical cardiologists at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have developed the world’s first interactive virtual patients as a computer aided learning programme which will be used to teach the vets of tomorrow, thanks to funding from Elanco Animal Health.

The three groundbreaking virtual patients provide veterinary students with a truly interactive and challenging learning experience in a safe environment. With each patient, the student is presented on their computer screen with a clinical case and then has to conduct an initial investigation including using a virtual stethoscope. They then work up their own differential diagnosis, problem list and treatment plans whilst receiving feedback. A clinical expert is always on hand to provide virtual advice and support, and the cases are made to be as authentic as possible, and include a digital timer to ensure that decisions are made promptly. These virtual patients have been developed and tested at the RVC over the last five years with support from Elanco Animal Health, a developer of products that improve animal health.

Through this partnership, this unique educational resource is now being shared with veterinary students throughout Europe, as it has been translated into French, Spanish, German and Italian. The feedback from students and academics has been overwhelmingly positive. Students value the interactivity of these online resources and academics appreciate that they fit well within the existing clinical curriculum. They have also been piloted with veterinary practitioners throughout Europe where they have been equally well received. RVC students have been asked to provide anonymous feedback on their experience using these virtual patients.

One student said:“I love how you get to make all the choices and actually work out heart auscultation and ECG interpretation”. Another veterinary student from the RVC, said: “They put us in the ‘consult’ frame of mind, and help us to think things through rather than to simply memorise the steps.” Mr Nick Short, Head of the RVC’s eMedia Unit, said: “Whilst these patients are virtual, they are so authentic that the experience of using them feels almost real. I believe that all students, and many vets, will find this virtual challenge better prepares them for clinical practice”. The RVC has agreed with the project sponsors to make these cases freely available (with a Creative Commons licence) on the RVC website. See: Cardiac Virtual Patients.

There are three comprehensive cases to work through which have been translated in French, German, Italian and Spanish. Additional fact sheets have been developed on WikiVet to provide background clinical information on the cases.

Press Office Contact

Uche Graves / Zoe White
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Notes to Editors

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a constituent College of the University of London. The RVC offers undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences, being ranked in the top 10 universities nationally for biosciences degrees.  It is currently the only veterinary school in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.

A research-led institution, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) the RVC maintained its position as the top HEFCE funded veterinary focused research institution.

The RVC also provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals; the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in central London, the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (Europe's largest small animal referral centre), the Equine Referral Hospital, and the Farm Animal Clinical Centre located at the Hertfordshire campus.

RVC Press Release 30 August 2016

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