Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Simulated patients in general practice: a different look at the consultation.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 294 doi: (Published 28 March 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;294:809
  1. J J Rethans,
  2. C P van Boven


    To develop a better empirical basis for developing quality assessment in general practice three simulated patients made appointments with 48 general practitioners during actual surgery hours and collected facts about their performance. The simulated patients were indistinguishable from real patients and presented a standardised story of a symptomatic urinary tract infection. Two months later the same general practitioners received a written simulation about a patient who had the same urinary tract infection and were asked how they would handle this in real practice. Both results were scored against an existing consensus standard. The overall score for both methods did not show any substantial differences. A more differentiated analysis, however, showed that general practitioners performed significantly better with simulated patients. It also showed that general practitioners answering the written simulation performed significantly more unnecessary and superfluous actions. The results of this study show that the use of simulated patients seems to show the efficient performance of general practitioners in practice.