Simulation Makes Lasting Impact in Ethiopia

Simulation Makes Lasting Impact in Ethiopia

When you visit the doctor, you want your physician to order the right diagnostic tests as well as come to the correct diagnosis for what is ailing you. But when a patient in a third-word country, such as Ethiopia, goes to the nearby clinic because they are ill, the stakes are even higher.

Illnesses that are treatable in the United States and other developed countries, such as the flu, pneumonia, diarrhea, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, are leading causes of death in Ethiopia. This is a result of lack of ready access to healthcare, and many patients receiving care only when it is past the critical juncture for treatment. Poor nutrition, lack of clean water and sanitary conditions all contribute to the life expectancy in Ethiopia being 59 for males and 61.8 for females, According to the World Health Organization. Additionally, children have a 6.8 percent chance of not living to their fifth birthday, and the death rate for 15 to 60 year olds in Ethiopia is 30.6 for males and 26.5 for females.

After seeing the impact that Virtual Patient Simulation has on the quality of healthcare in other parts of the world, TheraSim wanted to use the technology to help increase the quality of life and life expectancy of those living in Ethiopia. Since one of the most effective ways to increase the quality of the healthcare received is to provide training to the medical personnel, Therasim partnered with Ethiopian Federal Ministries of Health (FMoH) with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a unique initiative that will have a lasting impact on healthcare in the country.

The team first created a virtual patient simulation curriculum specific to the types of illness and conditions commonly seen in clinics and hospitals in Ethiopia. The next step was to deploy the training containing a total of 45 patient case studies to medical students at 13 universities in Ethiopia to help them gain experience with common scenarios that they will encounter while practicing medicine in their country. During the training, the medical students were able to get immediate feedback about their decisions regarding which tests to order as well as their diagnoses. The cases ranged from patients suffering from a wide range of illnesses, including bipolar disorder, appendicitis, malaria and rickets.

The results showed that the virtual patient simulation training had a significant Tigist Atnafuimpact on the quality of care that the future doctors were able to provide. Before Clinical Guidance, one of the medical students missed 66% of the diagnostic tests and 50% of decisions needed to diagnose and treat Tigist Atnafu, an 18-year-old woman who had been suffering from increasing abdominal pain for the past three days. But after the training, the same student increased their performance on the case study by 133% and was able to diagnose the patient with intra-abdominal abscess and treat her with a gram-negative agent.

The impact that this training will have on the students and the quality of healthcare will be long lasting. By continuing to integrate this level of technology and training into medical training, doctors will be prepared to correctly diagnose and treat the patients that walk through their door. Additionally, the benefits will also spread to colleagues that these future doctors work with since doctors often share knowledge and treatment courses. But most importantly, the residents of Ethiopia will be able to receive a correct diagnosis of illnesses that are easily treatable, but can be fatal when left untreated. Increasing the quality of healthcare and diagnostic processes will hopefully have the long-term effect of increasing the life expectancy in the country for both children and adults.