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Pharmacy students learn cases virtually via simulation tool

A state-of-the-art simulation tool developed at New Zealand’s University of Otago is now commercially licensed by a United States-based company to help pharmacy students learn via a realistic clinical experience.

What is SimPHARM™?

According to a recent press release, SimPHARM™ is built on mathematical models of the physiology of body systems that simulates real life reactions to diseases and drugs.

It is a web-based program that can be accessed on tablets, laptops or personal computers. Cases or 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.

This allows the student to sense and feel the consequences of their decisions.

A leading innovator of simulation management technologies announced the official launch of the ground-breaking new virtual gaming platform for pharmacy and clinical therapeutics education.

It is a significant milestone for Professor Stephen Duffull of the University’s School of Pharmacy.

How does it work?

Teachers assign a student or a whole class a virtual patient to treat. Because the tool operates on a dynamic learning algorithm, every student who runs the case will experience it differently.

The Professor described it 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 them and learn through experience. Early results from School of Pharmacy students at the University have shown excellent engagement.

They noticed that over 95% of students are engaging with virtual patients through the simulation tool before their class modules begin.

That is a great result, which means that the vast majority of the students are coming well-prepared with knowledge and skills that reflect their developing decision-making skills.

These are skills that they have learnt from the tool, which closely emulate what they will eventually experience in the real world.


The Professor began developing in 2007. From a theoretical concept, it has progressed with the University’s development and commercialisation company, investing time, money and expertise to steer the commercialisation process over the last decade.

The President and CEO of the US-based company shared that they are excited to partner with the Professor and the University.

The partnership had established a new standard for pharmacy education that effectively prepares students for real-world clinical practice.

SimPHARM™ fulfils a known demand for flipped classroom learning in pharmacy, medical, and nursing education.

The Professor divulged that while the launch is a fantastic milestone to reach, the program will be enhanced and updated continually to add further scope.

It will be a valuable collaborative learning for students of medicine working on a case alongside a student of pharmacy, or as a standalone tool in other disciplines.

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