A Calgary medical student has developed an app that allows future doctors to work on their diagnostic and communication skills before setting up their practice.
Eddy Guo, a second-year student at the University of Calgary's Cummings School of Medicine, says one of the challenges beyond book learning in medical school is getting better at interacting with patients.
As a result, he turned to the rapidly growing field of artificial intelligence to create multiple virtual patients with various health conditions that the student could talk to.
“It's good to get more than the two to four hours of practice that we get in medical school so we can really understand what communication is like in a real-world scenario,” Guo said.
“We think it's a good idea to get more than a few hours of training before actually going out into the wild and seeing patients for the first time.”
Guo created a program called OSCE-GPT where the computer is the patient. Users select the patient's gender and can choose a scenario or let the computer decide one for them.
“I'm Ben Johnson and I've had a really bad stomach ache for the past two days. It's in the upper right quadrant and it extends to the back,” says a robotic male voice on the show.
“I also had nausea and vomiting. “I'm here in the emergency room because of the pain.”
The AI patient can answer questions about his condition and provide feedback to the student after the conversation along with a list of other questions that could be asked.
Guo said until he is finally admitted to medical wards, the only other interactions he has are with standardized patients, professional actors with various conditions.
“As you can imagine, they do a really good job, but they're also very expensive,” Guo said.
“We don't have as many opportunities to practice talking to a patient, and so what this app was born out of was a lack of opportunities to practice.”
Guo collaborated with medical resident Dr. Mehul Gupta. According to him, such additional assistance will help create better doctors.
“One of the things we learn over and over again in medical school, and it's reinforced in residency, is that the history you get from the patient is almost 99 percent of the diagnosis you make and the impression you make on the patient. Talking to them for the first time is long-term,” said Gupta.
“If you have the opportunity to practice adjusting your questions to see how you can do better, you'll really become a better doctor overall.”
According to Guo, the app is still being updated and at this point there is no image of the patient that will appear on the screen. He said he hopes the program will include things like a chest X-ray, a CT scan or a picture of someone's skin.
Within the first month of the app's launch, more than 550 healthcare trainees from Canada and around the world, including Europe, India, Saudi Arabia and the United States, signed up.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 22, 2023.