School of pharmacy and virtual patients: Luke Bracegirdle

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Animation software used to develop characters in movies is now being used to help train the next generation of pharmacists.

Keele University has developed the Virtual Patient, a computer teaching system which uses avatars (animated 3D representations) to mimic real life patients to whom student pharmacists can ask questions just as they would on the hospital ward or on the high street.

The system uses a database of questions and answers designed to give trainees an opportunity to talk to virtual patients and medical professionals.

The virtual patients, or avatars, have been developed by an in-house team of animators and designers.

Luke Bracegirdle, IT Development Director at Keele's School of Pharmacy, explains how the system works by using the example of virtual patient 'Shirley' who has come into the pharmacy with a blocked up nose.

Luke says: "We programme the patients to respond to any key word or key phrases that are relevant to the learning objectives of the student."

  • Since this film was made in 2011, the university has started to run the tools over the web and via tablet devices. It also has a sister project to train pharmacists using a 3D simulation centre called KAVE.