Virtual Reality Creating Empathy and Understanding for the Sick and Disabled

It’s difficult to fully comprehend that the nearly 42 million Americans caring for a loved one over age 50 have become a forgotten “minority”. In many instances, these caregivers are overlooked and undervalued for their work. But a new solution aimed at helping those in the medical field can put people “in the shoes” of caregivers, and help boost empathy for sick patients and their supportive counterparts.  Finally, the ability to relate can become a (virtual) reality.

The Lowdown

Imagine yourself as a 77-year-old man with chronic joint pain, visual impairment and an early-onset of Alzheimer’s. Impossible, you say? Not anymore. Embodied Labs, a Chicago-based start-up created by four Millennials recently released the Alfred Lab app that allows for total VR immersion. The app presents users with a thorough and revealing look into someone else’s life, including interactions with doctors and family members. Those who have seen life in the eyes of “Albert” can now understand, see and hear what a day is like for someone battling a debilitating condition. According to Dr. Leslie Saxon, founder and executive director of the USC CBC, “this type of app is not only informative for family and friends, but vital for health care professionals as well. It will change how we treat patients by providing an immersive experience that creates emotional intelligence and ultimately more compassionate care.”

Embodied Labs has sought to use their Alfred Lab Project to educate health care professionals and medical students about aging issues and how to handle them. Bringing such a deep understanding to the day-to-day struggles of someone with health issues can provide insight for better treatment plans and medical care. Beyond patient needs, this app can open the doors to new research and studies about how the human body matures. Furthermore, incorporating VR into medical education has been proven to create empathy, leading to better communication skills and professionalism for the health care workforce

Looking Ahead in Healthcare

We at Dassault Systèmes are paving the way for a more expansive look at how the patient experience and the use of virtual reality go hand in hand. The use of virtual reality (VR) in healthcare is on the rise with $3.8 billion projected by 2020.  Many companies are now not only recognizing the importance of modern VR technology, but also how it is needed in order to revive the patient experience. In concurrence with the Alfred Lab, Dassault Systèmes has also played a key role in the creation of cutting edge life science technology. The Living Heart Project has developed a highly accurate personalized digital human heart model that serves as the foundation for educating medical students and professionals through the use of VR. Together, all of the dreamers and innovators of today can collaborate to create a fulfilling, informative, and practical way of keeping the medical field thriving.

Rebecca Shpektor

Rebecca is a currently a senior at Boston University majoring in public relations and mass communications. She loves creative writing, binge watching episodes of Black Mirror while cuddling with her Pomsky puppy, and eating sushi in excessive amounts. One day, she hopes to explore every country.

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