Leveraging AI Technology for Enhanced Communication Skill Development in Audiology Education

Authors: Prasha Sooful1, Zablon Pingo2, Andrea Simpson3, Mich Thornton2

1Northern Territory Government Health
2Charles Darwin University
3La Trobe University

Background: Effective communication skills are essential for audiology students to deliver quality care. However, the scarcity of opportunities for real patient interactions challenges such skills development. To address the challenges, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) virtual patient was developed to provide a safe and realistic environment for students to practice their communication and clinical reasoning skills.

Method: The study used a design-based approach in a three-stage process. Stage one was developing and testing an AI chatbot virtual patient using a Natural Language Processing model to define the patient’s personality and clinical characteristics. Over two hundred training conversations mapped to the Audiology Simulated Patient Interview Rating Scale (ASPIRS) framework was used to develop the patient. Stage two involved evaluating the chatbot using a modified version of the ASPIRS. In stage three, a learning design approach introduced the chatbot to students for self and peer evaluations.

Results: Findings revealed the AI patient provided opportunities for authentic interactions on how to frame and practice questioning. It allowed for the practice of empathy, building client trust and rapport. Using ASPIRS as a learning rubric supported mapping of the professional communication competencies that audiologists need to develop when interacting with patients. Peer evaluations exhibited elevated scores for professionalism and communication and lower ratings for interview skills and the substantive content of interactions.

Conclusion: The development of an AI virtual patient provided a safe setting for the unlimited practice of interview and patient feedback skills. Self and peer-assessment learning promoted a collaborative culture by encouraging reflection, self-assessment skills, peer-assessment skills and ownership over learning.