Modeling Professional Attitudes and Teaching Humanistic Communication in VR

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1R43CA141987-01
Agency Tracking Number: CA141987
Amount: $464,007.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2009
Solicitation Year: 2009
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: PHS2009-2
Small Business Information
DUNS: 609062513
HUBZone Owned: Y
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 (608) 829-0049
Business Contact
Phone: (608) 829-0049
Research Institution
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Modeling Professional Attitudes and Teaching Humanistic Communication in VR (M-PathicVR) Patients with life-threatening cancer need caregivers who can speak thoughtfully and intelligibly, and help them through difficult decisions by understanding their interests, values, and beliefs. Yet previous research shows that oncologists have end-of-life discussions with less than 35 percent of advanced cancer patients. Medical students, residents, and even oncology fellows lack effective training in end-of-life communication. Using standardized patients (SP) is costly, time-consuming, and resource-intensive. Educators need a new paradigm to effectively impart ethical and professional values to medical trainees. With leading animators, script writers, new media experts and professional educators, Medical Cyberworlds, Inc (MCW) is pioneering new media technologies that can provide this new paradigm by creating virtual, contextualized, first-person, experiential training. MCW seeks to develop and evaluate an M-PathicVR prototype that will create empathic interactions between medical trainees and a virtual patient who has just learned she has terminal cancer. There are three aims. Aim 1. Design the blueprint for the prototype: a) develop performance criteria; b) compose the 'breaking bad news' script; c) design the virtual patient; d) design the virtual reality environment and user interface; and e) integrate feedback from formative evaluation obtained through four focus groups with medical students and medical education experts from two medical schools. Aim 2. Build the M-PathicVR prototype based on the blueprint: a) record the script and dialog track; b) videotape a voice actor performing the script; c) rig and model the virtual patient; d) animate the virtual patient; e) develop the virtual environment; f) program the user evaluation engine; and g) program the interface. Aim 3. Conduct summative assessment of the M-PathicVR prototype with four focus groups of medical students and medical experts from two different medical schools. In Phase I, MCW will have: 1) developed a method of scripting physician-patient communication that incorpo- rates pedagogical data and objective evaluation elements; 2) created an emotionally evocative virtual cancer patient useful for modeling additional characters (e.g., family members and other caregivers); 3) trained an in- house animation director expert in applying proprietary animation technology; 4) developed specifications for a believable VR environment; 5) developed user assessment methods; and 6) created and validated user interface for communicating with virtual patients. MCW will be then positioned to develop, build, and beta test the full M- PathicVR application in Phase II. The M-PathicVR system can train more students with less expense and provide more robust evaluation data than traditional SP encounters. The M-PathicVR system will revolutionize teaching of doctor-patient communications, cultural competence, patient-centeredness, and reflective professionalism, and allow MCW to secure additional investment to create 'Net Gen' medical education tools. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Modeling Professional Attitudes and Teaching Humanistic Communication in VR (M-PathicVR) Doctors rarely receive effective training on how to communicate with patients who have terminal cancer, to help them with difficult decisions that have great emotional and financial impacts on the patients and society. Indeed, current research shows that most patients and their families never even have end-of-life discussions with their oncologists; this communication failure creates a significant barrier to compassionate care and prevention of suffering. To meet this urgent need, Medical Cyberworlds proposes to develop a revolutionary virtual reality training platform for medical students that will include: a believable virtual cancer patient that will emotionally engage the medical trainee; a scripting method that incorporates best teaching practices for end-of-life communications; and a system for objectively evaluating the trainee's competence.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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