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Advances in Medical Education and Practice






Background: Despite interest in using virtual humans (VHs) for assessing health care communication, evidence of validity is limited. We evaluated the validity of a VH application, MPathic-VR, for assessing performance-based competence in breaking bad news (BBN) to a VH patient.

Methods: We used a two-group quasi-experimental design, with residents participating in a 3-hour seminar on BBN. Group A (n=15) completed the VH simulation before and after the seminar, and Group B (n=12) completed the VH simulation only after the BBN seminar to avoid the possibility that testing alone affected performance. Pre-and postseminar differences for Group A were analyzed with a paired t-test, and comparisons between Groups A and B were analyzed with an independent t-test.

Results: Compared to the preseminar result, Group A's postseminar scores improved significantly, indicating that the VH program was sensitive to differences in assessing performance-based competence in BBN. Postseminar scores of Group A and Group B were not significantly different, indicating that both groups performed similarly on the VH program.

Conclusion: Improved pre-post scores demonstrate acquisition of skills in BBN to a VH patient. Pretest sensitization did not appear to influence posttest assessment. These results provide initial construct validity evidence that the VH program is effective for assessing BBN performance-based communication competence.


This article is open access through a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Licence.


Original Publication Citation

Guetterman, T. C., Kron, F. W., Campbell, T. C., Scerbo, M. W., Zelenski, A. B., Cleary, J. F., & Fetters, M. D. (2017). Initial construct validity evidence of a virtual human application for competency assessment in breaking bad news to a cancer patient. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 8, 505-512. doi:10.2147/amep.s138380