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Perceptions of Allied Health Students and Standardised Patients towards Virtual Exercise Teleconsultation Assessment (VETA) during COVID-19

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conference contribution
posted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Xiang Ren TanXiang Ren Tan, Li Whye Cindy NgLi Whye Cindy Ng
The Covid-19 pandemic with strict social distancing and lockdown measures has posed great challenges to the proper delivery of teaching and authentic assessment. This is especially pertinent to clinical education where it can be difficult to assess students’ skills and competencies without physical examinations. Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been a key assessment tool (Khan et al., 2013) for allied health education however this cannot be safely conducted under COVID-19 climate due to the need for close physical contact. Hence, we have devised and conducted a virtual exercise teleconsultation assessment (VETA) which replicates an authentic clinical setting for first year physiotherapy students to demonstrate their competency in remote exercise prescription (for an exercise physiology module). The conduct of virtual assessment has been demonstrated to be effective, notwithstanding some limitations, in medical and pharmacy courses (Blythe et al., 2021; Deville et al., 2021; Hannan et al., 2021). Importantly, the current pandemic may bring forth a new era where telehealth becomes more significant and forms a vital service delivery platform for allied health professionals in the future (Negrini et al., 2020). Hence, this supports the relevance of a teleconsultation setting with standardised patients in our virtual assessment. To examine the relevance and effectiveness of VETA, we conducted two different post-assessment surveys for the (1) physiotherapy students and (2) standardised patients (SPs) to understand their perceptions and potential concerns towards this new mode of assessment.

A total of 172 students successfully undertook the VETA, which involved the use of Zoom teleconferencing platform with the students and SPs residing in separate venues within campus. The students were required to prescribe an exercise program to the SP based on a given case study, and to provide remote coaching on the proper exercise form with the available equipment provided at both venues. After the assessment, two separate surveys (including quantitative and qualitative questions to explore their perceptions) were administered to the physiotherapy students and the SPs involved in VETA. Participation in the survey was anonymous and voluntary.

A total of 67 students (39% of cohort) and 9 SPs (100%) completed the respective surveys. 93% of the students and all SPs expressed a positive experience for VETA. More than 90% of students agreed that the instructions to perform each activity were clear and that they were aware of the assessment requirements. 93% of students felt that the SPs were realistic and believable while 76% of them agreed that the assessment was an authentic reflection of clinical setting. More than 90% of the students agreed that VETA was a fair and valid assessment and 60% felt that the assessment was of moderate difficulty. Most students (79%) concurred that VETA should remain as a form of assessment. However, important challenges were identified such as the limited viewing angle of camera, time and space constraint, adequacy of equipment and reliability of connectivity. The majority of the SPs were comfortable with VETA format and were able to follow students’ instructions adequately.

VETA is relevant and useful as an alternative assessment for allied health students, especially with the advent of technology and adoption of telehealth in clinical settings. VETA was generally well-received and perceived to be an authentic assessment. While there are still technical difficulties to consider, our current model and examination setup can provide an initial framework for others to adopt during this COVID-19 pandemic. It may also be useful for distant learning and remote assessment of clinical skills (e.g., healthcare workers in rural areas).


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Applied Learning Conference 2022, 20-21 January 2022, Online

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