Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently partnered with the tech company Jolly Good Inc. to develop a virtual reality training program aimed at improving communication skills among serious illness and end-of-life care professionals.
The ability to communicate with seriously ill patients and their families is an important part of providing quality care at various points in their health trajectories, according to Dr. Kei Ouchi, associate professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School and clinician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“This innovative virtual reality program aims to train medical professionals in effective communication skills specific to palliative care,” Ouchi told local news. “By immersing themselves in realistic scenarios, doctors can acquire the necessary skills to efficiently and compassionately communicate with patients and their families.”
Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School system.The hospital-based system is part of Mass General Brigham in Massachusetts, which includes 16 health care organizations in its home state, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The partnership with Jolly Good developed to build stronger palliative communication skills among health care professionals, the hospital reported.
The Tokyo-based virtual reality company was founded by CEO Kensuke Joji in 2015,. Since then, it has developed various VR and artificial intelligence (AI) programs in medical and nursing education, human resource development, and social and communication skills in health care, including mental health, hospice and palliative care. Jolly Good partners with Harvard University, Mahidol University and other academic institutions.
Dubbed the Palliative Care Communication Training VR, the program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital includes realistic scenarios clinicians could encounter with patients and families to help professionals develop compassionate communication skills.
Using VR technology in medical education could help clinicians practice their ability to navigate sensitive topics at different stages of serious and terminal illnesses, according to Ouchi.
The training modules include VR simulations with terminal or seriously ill patients entering emergency department settings. The simulations are held from a clinician’s perspective and include different ways to communicate prognosis, disease trajectory, care options and supportive resources with patients and families in critical care situations.
The program was in part developed due to growing recognition around the importance of communication training when it comes to providing more patient-centered care and reducing clinical errors, Ouchi said. Having a VR-based program will allow a wider range of time-pressed clinicians to build their palliative communication skills at a lower cost in a more accessible format, he indicated.
“Opportunities for non-palliative care clinicians to learn these skills are limited due to various constraints such as time and cost,” Ouchi said in the local news report. “The introduction of VR technology offers a scalable solution, enabling clinicians to practice high-stress scenarios from a physician’s perspective at their convenience. This can lead to better communication with patients and their families, resulting in more patient-centered care.”