Knowledge, attitudes and practice of virtual patients technology among undergraduate students at Makerere University College of Health Sciences
Background: Virtual Patient is an ―interactive computer simulation of real-life clinical scenarios for the purpose of medical training, education, or assessment‖. The technology has been used since 1971when the first Computer Aided Simulation of the clinical Encounter Planalyser, was designed and tested to help students practice their diagnosis skills. General Objective: To assess the knowledge, attitudes and use of Virtual Patient Technology by undergraduate students of Makerere University College of Health Sciences. Methods: This was a cross- sectional descriptive study that employed quantitative data collection methods. The study was carried out at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, comprising of four teaching schools which were all considered. Written permission was obtained from the department of Anatomy and ethical approval from the school of Biomedical Sciences higher degrees research and ethics committee. The data was analyzed using Epidata statistical package. Statistical tests included Chi-square and logistic regression analysis. The results were then summarized using frequencies and odds ratio. The level of significance was set at 0.05 for all statistical tests. Results: A total of 263 questionnaires were distributed ,253 were returned giving a response rate of 93.9%. Thirty six percent of students (36.4%) knew the meaning of Virtual Patient Technology. Sixty two percent (61.7%) were uncertain about the effectiveness and efficiency of Virtual Patient Technology. Eighteen percent (17.8%) of the participants had used the Virtual Patient Technology (VPT) before. The age (p= 0.17), sex (p=0.73), year of study (p=0.6) and the program (P=0.71) of the participants showed no statistical significance with knowledge on Virtual Patient Technology. Students below 24 years of age were less likely to have used Virtual Patient Technology. The sex of participants showed no significant association with use of the technology. The participants who were knowledgeable on Virtual Patient Technology were 3.39 times more likely to have used Virtual Patient Technology than participants who had less knowledge (OR; 3.39, P=0.01) and the major source of information about the knowledge were lectures. Conclusion: Most participants did not know about the technology hence the knowledge about Virtual Patient technology was very low. There was low usage of the technology amongst participants and the majority of participants were uncertain about the utility of this technology. Lecturers were the greatest source of information about the technology and 50% of the participants recommended the technology to all medical schools in Uganda.