University of Sussex Media Release.
. Real success for virtual patients

29 March 2000
For immediate release

A pioneering University of Sussex-based internet project that created "virtual patients" for speech therapy students is so successful that its creators are now developing it for use in other areas of clinical training.

Eleven universities have taken up the Patient Assessment Training System (PATSy), which helps students to diagnose language disorders through audio clips, video clips and interactive tests. Its main advantage is that it gives students practice in identifying a variety of clinical conditions before they deal with real patients.

Now the Nuffield Foundation, which funded the original project for 60,000, has granted another 134,000 to extend PATSy for use by students and researchers in the areas of childhood dyslexia, medical rehabilitation and neuropsychology (which includes Parkinson's, dementia and head injury).

Dr Richard Cox, a cognitive scientist in the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at Sussex, developed the first PATSy with Dr Carmel Lum of the Speech and Language Sciences Department at Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, and they are now working with the universities of York, Oxford and Edinburgh in developing the multi-media package for use in training other health professionals.

Dr Cox said: "The problem with clinical training is that it's a bit ad hoc. The patients students see may be very similar and the students' needs are given low priority in a busy hospital. PATSy can provide access to rare cases and an opportunity for students to practise clinical reasoning before they meet live patients. It's a useful adjunct to their training."

As well as being a valuable teaching tool, the system can be used by researchers and practising clinicians who want to update their knowledge, he said. As for the future, the system's shell can be adapted for any learning discipline that involves analysing case studies. "As far as I'm aware, it's the only one in existence," said Dr Cox. "We've had interest from users in the US and Australia and area looking at selling the system shell. Any profit will be ploughed back into the project."

Notes for editors

For further information, please contact Alison Field, Communications Officer, University of Sussex Tel: 01273 678888, Fax: 01273 877456, email: A.Field@sussex.ac.uk.

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