AWS Public Sector Blog

Medical students learn through virtual clinical rotations


CyberPatient, a Canadian startup, provides an online, digital learning environment to help medical students around the globe practice skills virtually before they ever enter into clinical rotations or step foot into a hospital. In the platform, students can interact with virtual patients and work through scenarios that mimic real life. As more students turn to virtual learning, CyberPatient’s platform is being offered to medical students at no cost.

CyberPatient’s founder, Dr. Qayumi, has been in practice for over 30 years in Vancouver, Canada. From his experience, Dr. Qayumi noticed that students consistently struggled with a gap in learning from the classroom to their first day in a hospital. Dr. Qayumi and the CyberPatient team wanted to create a learning tool that could help fill this gap, giving students experience, feedback, and confidence before their first day treating real patients. Their mission is to democratize medical education for students worldwide by providing access to modern healthcare training tools almost anywhere, anytime.

A virtual “day in the life”

CyberPatient allows students to practice the entire continuum of care by “seeing” and “treating” virtual avatars. When a virtual patient enters, medical students can practice taking their medical history, going through the physical examination, ordering necessary labs and tests, diagnosing the patient, and outlining the treatment plan.

At the end of the “visit,” the student is graded and given feedback on all of the individual choices they made at each step. Aytan Jaghory, public relations director at CyberPatient, says: “Our program allows students and healthcare practitioners to practice treating patients anywhere, anytime. CyberPatient helps prepare students without putting real life patients in danger.”

One University of British Columbia (UBC) medical student that participated in the CyberPatient and UBC research study says, “The platform really helped me gain confidence, familiarity, and speed. I like that there’s records of all of the exercises I’ve done, so I can track my progress and investigate the mistakes I’ve made.” Another student echoed that CyberPatient helped build confidence before interacting with real patients, “CyberPatient gives an opportunity for asking questions in a low stress and low potential-for-harm environment.”

CyberPatient also has a cost-tracking feature that aims to hone students’ decision-making skills. Currently, the cost is calculated based on the Canadian healthcare system in Canadian dollars, but to account for regional and country differences, the results are expressed as a percentage. In future iterations, CyberPatient aims to make country-specific changes to account for cost differences, regional pathologies, and cultural variations. Students are able to see the full monetary cost of each decision they make, from ordering a lab test to providing follow up care, which helps students learn how to manage the cost of care.

Using Amazon Web Services (AWS) helps CyberPatient to scale on demand, “We have experienced big fluctuations in user demand as we enter and exit testing environments. Using AWS lets us plan for the future as our user base expands, university by university,” says Sam Stumborg, project manager at CyberPatient. Since launching six months ago, CyberPatient has grown its total user base across 44 countries and has 15 universities using their platform. The startup uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon CloudWatch, and other services to scale on demand and to build securely.

By building on the AWS Cloud, CyberPatient hopes to increase its global reach, “Our mission is to raise the standard of global medical education worldwide. This means giving access to educational tools to students around the world, so they can be the best doctors, nurses, and medical professionals they can be,” says Dr. Qayumi.

Read more healthcare stories on the AWS Public Sector Blog, including: “Resources for researchers and institutions to work remotely” and “Supporting healthcare with technology in response to COVID-19.”

Listen to the Fix This podcast for more healthcare stories.