Patrick Kenny, Thomas Parsons, Skip Rizzo, Greg Reger, Caroly Pataki, Jeffery Sugar, Michele Pato, Cheryl St. George: “Virtual Patients for Future Leaders”

December 4, 2008 | Orlando, FL

Speaker: Patrick Kenny, Thomas Parsons, Skip Rizzo, Greg Reger, Caroly Pataki, Jeffery Sugar, Michele Pato, Cheryl St. George
Host: The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC)

War is one of the most challenging environments that persons may experience. The cognitive, emotional and physical demands of combat environments place enormous stress on even the best-prepared military personnel. The OIF/OEF combat theatre, with its ubiquitous battlefronts, ambiguous enemy identification, and repeated extended deployments have resulted in a significant number of returning American SMs with PTSD and other mental disorders. As a result, military leaders and clinicians in training need to develop clinical skills for identifying potential stress related disorders. Although traditional approaches make use of standard clinic patients to teach, there is limited ability to evaluate skills in a systematic fashion. There is the concern related to the time and money needed to train those involved in the role play for standardized patients. Perhaps most difficult is the “standardization” of standardized patients—will they in fact consistently proffer psychometrically reliable and valid interactions with the training clinicians. Virtual Human technology has evolved to a point where researchers are developing mental health applications that make use of virtual standardized patients. These virtual patients are embodied characters that have the ability to recognize speech, respond to questions and generate verbal and non-verbal behavior. We have conducted several pilot studies with clinical residents at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and will describe the ongoing study and methodology of our virtual patient approach that allows novice mental health clinicians to conduct an interview with a character emulating PTSD. The paper will summarize the data from the studies and discuss the preliminary standardization of the interactions with the virtual patients. The underlying virtual patient technology will be described. Finally future work will be discussed and recommendations related to the ways in which these characters may enable future leaders to learn, train and win.