High-stakes assessment of clinical performance through the use of standardized patients (SPs) is limited by the SP's lack of real physical abnormalities. The authors report on the development and implementation of physical examination stations that combine simulation technology in the form of digitized cardiac auscultation videos with an SP assessment for the 2003 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's Comprehensive Objective Examination in Internal Medicine. The authors assessed candidates on both the traditional stations and the stations that combined the traditional SP examination with the digitized cardiac auscultation video. For the combined stations, candidates first completed a physical examination of the SP, watched and listened to a computer simulation, and then described their auscultatory findings. The candidates' mean scores for both types of stations were similar, as were the mean discrimination indices for both types of stations, suggesting that the combined stations were of a testing standard similar to the traditional stations. Combining an SP with simulation technology may be one approach to the assessment of clinical competence in high-stakes testing situations.
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