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Initial construct validity evidence of a virtual human application for competency assessment in breaking bad news to a cancer patient

Authors Guetterman TC, Kron FW, Campbell TC, Scerbo MW, Zelenski AB, Cleary JF, Fetters MD

Received 30 March 2017

Accepted for publication 29 May 2017

Published 25 July 2017 Volume 2017:8 Pages 505—512

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S138380

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Maria Olenick

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anwarul Azim Majumder


Video abstract presented by Timothy C Guetterman.

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Timothy C Guetterman,1 Frederick W Kron,1 Toby C Campbell,2 Mark W Scerbo,3 Amy B Zelenski,4 James F Cleary,5 Michael D Fetters1

1Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI, 3Department of Psychology, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, 4Department of General Internal Medicine, University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, 5Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Clinical Science Center, Madison, WI, USA

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.

Keywords: verbal behavior, health communication, informatics, clinical competence, empathy

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