Interactive online CPD for General Practitioners. A case study using Virtual Patients to promote awareness of early signs of cancer and the tools available to assist with referral decisions

April 9, 2013 8:00 – 9:30am

Simon R Messer1, MSc  Alison Wint2, Medicine GP
1University of the West of England, 2Avon Somerset & Wiltshire Cancer Services NHS Trust

The UK has poorer cancer survival outcomes than comparable countries. The education of GPs is seen as a key element of the governments strategy to improve this. This project was commissioned to raise awareness of early signs of cancer and support GPs with their referral decision making. 6 virtual patients (VPs) were created to simulate a GP surgery; 4 of them were cases with early signs of cancer and the other 2 placebos. Each patient presented as a talking avatar with whom the GP interacts. The cases were written by GPs in collaboration with the authors. Participants in the pilot were recruited from GP practices and worked through the cases. Evaluation was by a self administered e-questionnaire that captured both quantitative and qualitative data. The results were evaluated using statistical and thematic analysis.72 GPs participated. The data show that the VPs that have served to highlight the importance of early diagnosis and to increase: "Awareness of cancer assessment tools "Confidence in 2 Week Wait referral "Knowledge of available support to GPs "Awareness of the late effects of cancer The study also showed that participants liked online working and that the VPs were engaging. The benefits of them being online, quick and fun to do were highlighted. We conclude that the VP cases were very favourably received with the pilot participants. There was significant agreement that VPs provide an authentic learning solution online and that further cases would be beneficial.