The practical implications of AR/VR for medical teaching and training also allow students to experience situations from the patient's viewpoint.
Bedside manner and empathy can be hard to teach. Putting yourself into another person's shoes is a skill easier said than done, but with AR/VR technologies, students are able to immerse themselves in the patient experience, learning best practices for treatment and communication.
At Chicago's Embodied Labs, researchers are using VR to address the problematic lack of interest in geriatric medicine. With the U.S. Census Bureau predicting that 20 percent of the population will be 65 and older in 2030, a deficit of geriatricians could have severe consequences on our health system. Embodied Labs' "We Are Alfred" simulation allows students to experience what life is like for a 74-year-old, complete with macular degeneration and hearing loss. In an initial study of the device, students exhibited clear increases in their empathy levels toward aging adults, evidenced by self-reporting and reduced use of stereotypical negative terms to refer to older patients. The study also showed that 9.5 percent of the students reported an increased interest in practicing geriatric medicine.
AR and VR are enabling a future where today's students are better prepared to become more highly trained, skilled, and empathetic healthcare providers.