One of the most difficult parts of being a medical professional is having to deliver bad news. While there is no real ‘easy’ way to say ‘You test came back positive’ or ‘Your loved one has died’. A virtual reality program is trying to help make doctors better prepared for those difficult conversations.
The software is called Mpathic VR and was created by developers at Medical Cyberworlds to teach ‘Effective, empathic communication skills’. A study showed that students who began using Mpathic VR had better patient communication skills and felt more confident about their ability to handle those tough conversations than those who used traditional methods.
The software involves the students talking to virtual characters who are designed to react in a realistic way, using facial expressions and body language in tune to the way the conversation is proceeding in real time. The software also examines the body language and mannerisms of the student in order for the virtual character to react in an appropriate way. Of course, unlike real life, the students can always just restart if the conversation does not turn out the way they would prefer. A short video demonstrating how it works is available to view below.
According to Medical Cyberworlds, poor communication between staff and patients is a major cause of preventable medical error. A stressful environment can make it more difficult to switch gears into a gentler mindset needed for difficult conversations, which is where Medical Cyberworlds are hoping Mpathic VR can make a difference by better preparing medical staff for those moments.
Mpathic VR can also offer training for other tough scenarios, such as a conversation with a nurse who feels they are being left out in the workplace, or solving a family dispute regarding a patient’s care.
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