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Can VR simulations help increase medical workers’ empathy for end-of-life patients?




A man samples VR goggles for the Revinax immersive tutorial during the 2017 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 5, 2017.
A man samples VR goggles for the Revinax immersive tutorial during the 2017 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 5, 2017.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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Virtual reality has broken into e-commerce, news and, of course, entertainment – and now it’s being used in end-of-life care.

Some hospice care workers and medical students in Maine are being trained with virtual reality  experiences from the eyes of their patients.

One simulation follows a patient named Clay, who just found out his last round of chemotherapy hasn’t slowed down his lung cancer. There’s also Alfred, a 74-year-old man dealing with hearing loss and vision loss from macular degeneration. Another is Beatriz, a middle-aged woman progressing through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The hope is medical students and workers will have more empathy for what their patients are going through after stepping into their shoes.

AirTalk looks at how VR is being used in the context of medicine.

Guests:

Marilyn R. Gugliucci, professor and the director for geriatrics education and research at University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine Division of Geriatrics; she’s also on the advisory board of Embodied Labs, the L.A.-based firm which creates these VR videos

Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and co-founder of STRIVR, a company using virtual reality for corporate training; he co-authored the recent study “Building long-term empathy: A large-scale comparison of traditional and virtual reality perspective-taking”; he’s also author of “Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2018)