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USC-ICT Serious Games Rapidly Mature New Clinical Interviewers

USC Standard Patient is a new University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies research project. It seeks to improve clinic-based medical encounter simulation with the goal to create engaging Virtual Standardized Patient (VSP) encounters, enable objective and meaningful assessment of learner interview performance and mature physician interviewing & diagnostic skills.

VSPs are substantially different in design and use from what is typically referred to as Virtual Patients. VSPs, which are based on SimCoach virtual human technology, converse in natural English, understand what you tell them and can express themselves non-verbally through facial expressions and gestures. The system can create patients with a range of personalities including average, sullen, loquacious, uncertain, reserved and neurotic.

The long term vision for the USC Standard Patient is to create the most functional and natural virtual standardized patients in history, while establishing a critical mass of conversational patients as a free national resource. 

USC Standard Patient is a modular system that includes several complete applications that work together. There is an encounter player, an authoring application, an on-line community and a learning management system.

USC Standard Patient Hospital

The hospital is the component that learners use to interact with VSPs. VSP cases can be quite varied and may consist of one or more modules. Modules include the medical interview, structured encounters, physical exam, objective tests, general multimedia, anticipatory guidance, diagnosis & plan and assessment reporting. The hospital application stitches these modules together into a coherent whole which appears to the learner as a patient encounter.

USC Standard Patient Hospital features more than fifty different virtual humans that vary by age, ethnicity and body type. VSP encounters closely simulate office-based patient visits where the clinician must obtain a chief complaint, elicit a narrative and follow up with specific questions to establish a diagnosis and rule out other conditions within a working differential.

Have a taste of these encounters on YouTube

USC Standard Patient Studio

The main goal of the USC Standard Patient Studio is to create VSPs that can be authored rapidly by non-computer scientists. 

The studio authoring application starts with the creation of the patient. Authors can set the patient’s age, sex, appearance, vitals and personality. They then choose modules to build a patient case. Finally, the system walks authors through each module.

Structured encounter modules are also available as an advanced option. Authors can take an existing VSP and modify it or borrow assets from the sharing community.

Medical educators can learn to create a very interactive and human-like VSP in less than one day. As a Standard Patient Studio community member, they will have access to all published cases and can modify them as they see fit. Medical educators can also peer review other cases and group cases into courses and publish them so their students can access them. Anything users create and publish can also be used by any other Studio educational members.

Educational Approach

The assessment system is revolutionary and provides specific, useful feedback to the learner. The ability to provide the student with a detailed & complete, objective assessment and guide them with specifics on how they can perform better is a major advantage of the approach over human standardized patients.   This emerging capability is unprecedented and has the potential to rapidly mature new clinical interviewers.

USC Standard Patient (USCSP) Team

The USC Standard Patient (USCSP) Team includes USC Institute for Creative Technologies, BreakAway Games, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Val G. Hemming National Capital Simulation Center and many advisers and friends around the world. The USCSP project is funded by the Department of Defense.