The University of Florida is using a life-sized computer avatar on a flat screen and a mannequin with prosthetic body parts to teach medical students how to perform exams that they would otherwise rarely get to perform on real people. Working with the Medical College of Georgia and three other universities, University of Florida engineers developed a hybrid computer/mannequin that enables medical students to correctly perform breast exams and learn how to talk to patients to obtain important information.
The training technique is important because correct examinations and good doctor-patient communication are critical to obtaining successful medical treatments, says Florida professor Benjamin Lok. "Studies have shown that communication skills are actually a better predictor of outcome than medical skills," Lok says.
The hybrid computer/mannequin patient talks to students and can respond using a computer speech and voice recognition system created by the researchers. The interaction is unscripted, but follows a typical pattern for a woman's visit to her doctor, and features both verbal and tactile challenges for medical students. Students need to obtain the patient's medical history, listen and empathize with her concerns, and respond to her questions, all while performing the physical exam, which requires the correct palpitating technique and applying the proper pressure.
Sensors inside the hybrid's prosthetic breast provide pressure information through different colors on a virtual breast on screen. Engineers can program the system to have or not have an abnormality, which would alter the conversation.
From University of Florida News
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