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J Biomed Inform. 2012 Dec;45(6):1137-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2012.07.009. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Avatar-based simulation in the evaluation of diagnosis and management of mental health disorders in primary care.

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  • 1Arizona State University, USA.


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are highly prevalent illnesses, but the literature suggests they are under-detected and suboptimally managed by primary care practitioners (PCPs). In this paper, we propose and use an evaluation method, using digitally simulated patients (avatars) to evaluate the diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning of PCPs and compared it to the traditional use of paper-based cases. Verbal (think-aloud) protocols were captured in the context of a diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning task. Propositional and semantic representational analysis of simulation data during evaluation, showed specific deficiencies in PCP reasoning, suggesting a promise of this technology in training and evaluation in mental health. Avatars are flexible and easily modifiable and are also a cost-effective and easy-to-disseminate educational tool.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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