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Med Teach. 2009 Aug;31(8):732-8.

Cross-cultural use and development of virtual patients.

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Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.


Three major issues drive the cross-cultural use of virtual patients (VPs): an increased mobility of healthcare professionals, students and patients; limited resources for developing VPs; and emerging standards for the exchange of VPs across institutions. Many students are trained in countries other than where they were born. In addition, healthcare professionals often move between countries and are today meeting more and more patients from cultures different from their own. VPs can be used both for learning a new "medical" language as well as for illustrating different perspectives on illness in the new culture. Therefore, it may be important to develop cases reflecting patients from a wide variety of regions and cultures to prepare these professionals to understand both the background of these patients as well as the different medical conditions they may present. However, the benefits of using VPs may be limited at many universities by insufficient resources to develop all the VPs needed for their curricula. The option to acquire VPs from other universities may therefore be appealing, but as these may only be available in English, it is important to consider whether VPs reflecting the local illness panoramas and medical procedures are needed.

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