Educational tool developed at Otago makes international launch

SimPHARM™ virtual patient image

Real-time decision making equals empowered students. That is the essence of SimPHARM™, a state-of-the-art simulation tool developed at the University of Otago and now commercially licensed by a United States-based company to help pharmacy students learn via a realistic clinical experience.

Education Management Solutions, LLC (EMS), a leading innovator of simulation management technologies, today announced the ground-breaking new virtual gaming platform for pharmacy and clinical therapeutics education.

It is built on mathematical models of the physiology of body systems that simulates real life reactions to diseases and drugs. This allows the student to sense and feel the consequences of their decisions.

Professor Stephen Duffull image

Professor Stephen Duffull.

SimPHARM™ is being officially launched at an American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) event in Chicago this week. It’s a significant milestone for Professor Stephen Duffull of Otago’s School of Pharmacy.

“To see this tool reach the commercial stage is definitely a capstone of my career as SimPHARM™ combines both my research expertise and my passion as a teacher, so to think SimPHARM™ will be used by students of pharmacy across the world is extremely humbling as well as exciting,” Professor Duffull says.

Teachers assign a student or a whole class a virtual patient to treat. Because SimPHARM™ operates on a dynamic learning algorithm, every student who runs the case will experience it differently. SimPHARM™’s clinical pharmacology simulation software is an ideal training solution for both undergraduate and postgraduate pharmacy education programs.

Professor Duffull describes SimPHARM™ as a ‘disruptive innovation’ insofar as it is a new educational tool that has not been experienced in pharmacy training before. It puts the student in the driver’s seat to challenge themselves and learn through experience. Early results from School of Pharmacy students at the University of Otago have shown excellent engagement when using SimPHARM™ in a flipped class where students are assigned a virtual patient to treat before attending class – similar to (but more exciting than) pre-reading requirements.

SimPHARM™ virtual patient 2 image“We’re noticing that over ninety five per cent of students are engaging with virtual patients from SimPHARM™ before their class modules begin. That is a great result and means the vast majority of our students are coming well-prepared with knowledge and skills that reflect their developing decision-making skills. These are skills that they have learnt from SimPHARM™ that closely emulate what they will eventually experience in the real world.

SimPHARM™ is a web-based program that can be accessed on tablets, laptops or personal computers. Cases (virtual patients) are chosen to suit each student’s stage of learning, and range from very simple medical ailments through to more intricate and complex cases that reflect the complexity of pharmacy practice.

Professor Duffull began developing SimPHARM™ in 2007. From a theoretical concept, SimPHARM™ has progressed with the University of Otago’s development and commercialisation company Otago Innovation Limited investing time, money and expertise to steer the commercialisation process over the last decade.

“Otago Innovation’s investment of time, money and expertise has been crucial in getting SimPHARM™ to the open market,” Professor Duffull adds.

SimPHARM™ display image

Display on show in Chicago.

Along with assisting in SimPHARM™’s technical development, Otago Innovation identified and engaged with 26 potential partners in the health simulation sector in order to make SimPHARM™ commercially viable. United States-based company Education Management Solutions (EMS) were identified as the best fit. EMS signed a license agreement for SimPHARM™ in 2016 and is now responsible for the marketing and sales of SimPHARM™ worldwide.

“We are excited to partner with industry innovator Professor Duffull and the University of Otago,” said Anurag Singh, President and CEO of EMS. “With this partnership, we’ve established a new standard for pharmacy education that effectively prepares students for real-world clinical practice. SimPHARM™ fulfills a known demand for flipped classroom learning in pharmacy, medical, and nursing education. The solution is a welcome addition to EMS’ comprehensive suite of simulation management and virtual training technologies for clinical education.”

Professor Duffull says while the launch is a fantastic milestone to reach, the SimPHARM™ program will be enhanced and updated continually to add further scope. He also believes it will be valuable for collaborative learning; e.g students of medicine working on a case alongside a student of pharmacy, or as a standalone tool in other disciplines.

/Public Release. View in full here.