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Using Virtual Reality for Motivational Interviewing Training


Virtual worlds offer the potential for a new medical education pedagogy that will enhance learning outcomes for patient-centered communication skills training.

Virtual worlds offer the potential for a new medical education pedagogy that will enhance learning outcomes for patient-centered communication skills training, according to the results of a recent study.

The goals of the study were to explore the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a virtual-world platform for delivering motivational interviewing (MI) training designed for physicians and pilot test instructional designs using the virtual tool Second Life (SL) for MI training.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, was headed by Suzanne Mitchell, MD, of the department of family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

MI is a proven evidence-based, patient-centered counseling strategy designed to support patients seeking health behavior change, but the time and travel required to train users on how to use this tool has slowed adoption by health care professionals.

Immersive online environments offered by such programs as SL are becoming part of the educational technology landscape and offer great promise for MI training. But little data exists on the use of virtual-world platforms for physician training in MI.

The researchers designed an MI training program in the SL virtual world and then trained and enrolled 13 primary care physicians in a two-session, interactive program in SL. The program focused on using MI for counseling patients about colorectal cancer screening.

“Acceptability ratings for the MI training ranged from 4.1 to 4.7 on a 5-point scale. The SL learning environment was also highly rated, with 77% (n = 10) of the doctors reporting SL to be an effective educational medium. Learners’ confidence and clinical practice patterns for colorectal cancer screening improved after training,” the researchers wrote in the study abstract.

“Pre- to post-training mean confidence scores for the ability to elicit and address barriers to colorectal cancer screening (4.5 to 6.2, P = .004), and knowledge of decision-making psychology (4.5 to 5.7, P = .02) and behavior change psychology (4.9 to 6.2, P = .02) increased significantly. Global MI skills scores increased significantly and component scores for the MI skills also increased, with statistically significant improvements in 4 of the 5 component skills: empathy (3.12 to 3.85, P = .001), autonomy (3.07 to 3.85, P < .001), collaboration (2.88 to 3.46, P = .02), and evocative response (2.80 to 3.61, P = .008).”

SourceA Pilot Study of Motivational Interviewing Training in a Virtual World [Journal of Medical Internet Research]

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