Using standardized patients to evaluate hospital-based intervention outcomes

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Abstract

Background The standardized patient approach has proved to be an effective training tool for medical educators. This article explains the process of employing standardized patients in an HIV stigma reduction intervention in healthcare settings in China.

Methods The study was conducted in 40 hospitals in two provinces of China. One year after the stigma reduction intervention, standardized patients made unannounced visits to participating hospitals, randomly approached service providers on duty and presented symptoms related to HIV and disclosed HIV-positive test results. After each visit, the standardized patients evaluated their providers’ attitudes and behaviours using a structured checklist. Standardized patients also took open-ended observation notes about their experience and the evaluation process.

Results Seven standardized patients conducted a total of 217 assessments (108 from 20 hospitals in the intervention condition; 109 from 20 hospitals in the control condition). Based on a comparative analysis, the intervention hospitals received a better rating than the control hospitals in terms of general impression and universal precaution compliance as well as a lower score on stigmatizing attitudes and behaviours toward the standardized patients.

Conclusion Standardized patients are a useful supplement to traditional self-report assessments, particularly for measuring intervention outcomes that are sensitive or prone to social desirability.

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