Medical Students Learn Clinical Exam Skills Virtually During Pandemic Using Telemedicine Technology

Virtual clinical exams at LMU-DCOM

When COVID-19 emerged, it created challenges for traditional education instruction across the nation. However, at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM), the technology was already in place, providing a smooth transition into virtual learning.


To ensure required safety protocols are met during COVID-19, many facilities have sought remote solutions such as telemedicine and video conferencing. Prior to the pandemic, these mediums were examined in educating medical profession students and were found useful in remotely assessing students’ skills. With the technology in place, staff of the LMU-DCOM Center for Simulation and Training set up virtual Clinical Skills Workshops that included video sessions with standardized patients. A standardized patient is a person trained to act as a real patient in order to simulate a set of symptoms in a clinical setting. Using the B-Line Medical Learning Management System that is integrated into the school’s clinical exam center, and Zoom video communications, students were able to interact with standardized patients in a telehealth format.


Third-year osteopathic medical students needed to prepare for the physical exam component of their boards, while at the same time adhering to state and federal COVID-19 safety protocols.


“With students being stuck at home, we had to think out of the box when it came to teaching the physical exam component,” said Kristen Hager, director for the LMU-DCOM Center for Simulation and Training. “While students interacted with standardized patients via teleconference, they practiced performing a physical exam with volunteers from their family and friends within the same household.”


Faculty and staff sought to understand the impact of converting multi-session objective structured clinical exams (OSCEs) to a virtual-hybrid format using existing hardware and software, and what impact it would have on the perceptions of the overall function and efficacy of the clinical evaluations.


At the conclusion of each session, students were asked questions about their experience with the activity. Standardized patients were also interviewed to garner their perspectives on the success of the virtual format for continuous quality improvement. Data was gathered from students who participated in the virtual-hybrid format and compared with the data from students who had previously participated in the on-site format. Ninety-seven percent of the students who participated in the virtual-hybrid Clinical Skills Workshop agreed that the workshops were useful.


“The feedback we received on this new hybrid-virtual type of OSCE was overwhelmingly positive,” said Hager. “Those who participated noted that the virtual medical provider and patient interaction provided an adequate environment for humanistic learning.”


The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. LMU-DCOM is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of osteopathic physicians to provide health care in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond. For more information about LMU-DCOM, call 1-800.325.0900, ext. 7082, e-mail [email protected], or visit us online at

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