The treatment of pain with prescription narcotic pain medications is a significant cause of the epidemic in prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, the downward spiral of addiction, diversion to the public, increased costs, and decreased productivity. Health professionals must be prepared with the skills to intervene in pain cases without causing undo harm by altering how they evaluate patients and provide treatment.
The Clinical Encounters suite of products sets out to enhance the skills of health care providers via a virtual clinical encounter. In the first installment, Clinical Encounters: Pain, students are trained to develop proper pain management, opioid risk assessment, and other pain intervention skills including:
- screening for pain treatment “red flags” and addiction history,
- full assessment and diagnosis of pain etiology and addiction,
- providing treatment interventions that minimize risk of addiction and diversion, and
- referral to other providers for multidisciplinary care or a specialist in pain control and/or addiction when necessary.
Health professionals who are proficient in core competencies before prescribing a pain medication and during long-term pain management will reduce the suffering and costs of addiction to prescription pain medications. Clinical Encounters: Pain targets clinical skills that have been identified as practice or training gaps.
Skills Attainment and Improved Self-Efficacy via Simulation
- Through simulations, medical students and those in other health professions are able to practice behaviors and skills in a safe environment where they are free to make mistakes and experience consequences without patients experiencing the more disturbing effects of their actions.
- In addition to medical decision-making, communication skills training is possible; such as with interviewing skills.
- Virtual patient experiences can be utilized to assess a broad range of students’ clinical skills.
- As students succeed in simulated case experiences, they develop confidence that transfers to their interactions with real-life clinical situations. The simulation training fosters more successful learning experience in real-life situations and prepares them to take on additional challenges not possible in a simulation environment.
- Virtual patients provide a reproducible, valid, and reliable experience across multiple medical schools and professions. Training based on clinical experience may be unreliable, inconsistent, and difficult to obtain in some locations where the population of patients does not provide the range experiences desired.
Educator and Administrator Value
- Educators seeking cases to assist in training their students can typically only access a limited number of cases available in their Institution. Clinical Encounters: Pain allows access to a variety of cases developed by their colleagues and located in a common repository from which they can draw. Cases cover a variety of topics and target different stages in clinical skills development.
- Compared to live standardized patients, a virtual patient experience does not require dedicated space, human actors, or preparation time. It is also significantly less expensive to arrange and provides a wider variety cases, as well as being far more readily-accessible to the trainee.
- Simulation experiences offer learning advantages over real-world constraints and limitations. For example, the simulation can demonstrate changes over time, with time being compressed such that follow-up visits are simulated just minutes later. Or the student can follow a patient as they age and the years pass.
As users evaluate and treat simulated patients with common pain conditions, evidence-based feedback is provided on clinical choices made at each step. This provides a solid groundwork from which health professionals can build their skills and utilize them in eventual practice, thus improving the health outcomes of patients with pain.