Dr. Benjamin Lok of the University of Florida and Dr. Carla Pugh of the University of Wisconsin have created a mannequin with sensors for conducting virtual prostate exams. The virtual exam is designed to help students practice the exam and reduce anxiety by acclimating them to intimate medical settings.
Dr. Lok discussed the National Science Foundation supported virtual patient prostate exam in a recent interview with Geekosystem.
The simulator is a combination of Dr. Pugh’s invention–a mannequin with sensors on the prostate to track student performance–and the work of his research group, the Virtual Patients Group. The Virtual Patients Group conducts research on virtual patient simulations. The end product is a life-sized virtual person which medical students can perform a prostate exam on.
The virtual patient, called Patrick, can talk to the medical student and expresses fears and concerns about the exam, allowing the students to practice their interpersonal skills. The sensors on the prostate give real-time feedback on the student’s performance as well as coverage of the prostate and the amount of pressure being applied.
Dr. Lok tells Geekosystem that “intimate exams (including the clinical breast exam and prostate exam) are extremely high stakes and high impact scenarios for medical students. However, currently there are few tools to enable the practice and acclimation to what are very anxiety generating interactions. Currently, students receive minimal practice and interaction in intimate exams due to the high cost for training and high anxiety nature of the exams.”
The simulator has been piloted at Drexel University and the University of Florida. Dr. Lok hopes the promising results will lead to the simulation becoming mandatory.