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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 4, 2018

Teaching about diagnostic errors through virtual patient cases: a pilot exploration

  • Rabih Geha , Robert L. Trowbridge , Gurpreet Dhaliwal and Andrew P.J. Olson EMAIL logo
From the journal Diagnosis



Diagnostic error is a major problem in health care, yet there are few medical school curricula focused on improving the diagnostic process and decreasing diagnostic errors. Effective strategies to teach medical students about diagnostic error and diagnostic safety have not been established.


We designed, implemented and evaluated a virtual patient module featuring two linked cases involving diagnostic errors. Learning objectives developed by a consensus process among medical educators in the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) were utilized. The module was piloted with internal medicine clerkship students at three institutions and with clerkship faculty members recruited from listservs. Participants completed surveys on their experience using the case and a qualitative analysis was performed.


Thirty-five medical students and 25 faculty members completed the survey. Most students found the module to be relevant and instructive. Faculty also found the module valuable for students but identified insufficient curricular time as a barrier to implementation.


Medical students and faculty found a prototype virtual patient module about the diagnostic process and diagnostic error to be educational.

Corresponding author: Andrew P.J. Olson, MD, Assistant Professor, Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN, USA, Phone: +612-625-2290


This project was funded by an Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine Innovation Grant.

  1. Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: None declared.

  3. Employment or leadership: None declared.

  4. Honorarium: None declared.

  5. Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.


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Supplementary Material:

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2018-05-17
Accepted: 2018-08-15
Published Online: 2018-10-04
Published in Print: 2018-11-27

©2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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