Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Ruth Plackett

Ruth Plackett

My PhD  Title: The development and evaluation of an online patient simulation training tool to improve the clinical decision-making skills of medical students

Supervisors: Professor Rosalind Raine, University College London, Dr Jessica Sheringham, University College London, Dr Maria Kambouri, University College London, Dr Angelos Kassianos, University College London

Lay summary: My PhD is exploring whether using new educational technologies, such as online simulation, can improve the teaching of clinical reasoning skills for medical students. Along with my supervisors and medical experts I developed an electronic clinical reasoning educational simulation tool (eCREST). eCREST shows patients in general practice, all patients presenting with vague, non-specific respiratory symptoms, which could be indicative of serious conditions that are often missed in primary, such as lung cancer. This will allow students to practise gathering information from a patient, interpret that information and make informed decisions on diagnosis and management. I have conducted a feasibility randomised controlled trial at three UK medical schools, to see whether it can improve clinical reasoning skills, and a qualitative think aloud interview study, to explore how eCREST can help students to learn clinical reasoning skills. This PhD aims to improve future doctors' data gathering and interpretation skills in the primary care setting, to help reduce future diagnostic errors.

My Background Before doing my PhD I completed a BA in Politics, Psychology and Sociology at the University of Cambridge (Corpus Christi College) and specialised in psychology. Following this I worked for a year as a research assistant at The Anna Freud Centre, analysing data and creating service evaluation reports for child and adolescent mental health services. I then completed a MSc in Rehabilitation Psychology at the University of Nottingham, where I began to develop my interest in health and suing digital interventions to help improve healthcare. My dissertation explored the views of healthcare professionals on using smartphone apps to help to support children and adolescents with memory impairment due to acquired brain injury. Following this I worked as Research officer at the children and young peoples' cancer charity CLIC Sargent where I gathered data on young peoples' experiences of diagnosis and produced a policy report to promote awareness of the importance of early diagnosis in primary care for young people with cancer. I was then successful in my PhD application to explore how technology could be used to help doctors and medical students follow NICE guidelines to diagnosing conditions like lung cancer in primary care, which are often misdiagnosed.


MA Politics, Psychology and Sociology, University of Cambridge

MSc Rehabilitation Psychology, University of Nottingham


Improvement science PhD fellowship, The Health Foundation

UCL Changemakers grant


Plackett, R., Thomas, S., & Thomas, S. (2017). Professionals' views on the use of smartphone technology to support children and adolescents with memory impairment due to acquired brain injury. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 12(3), 236-243.

Contact details @ruthplackett