Education Using VR Can Encourage Patients To Get Colon Cancer Screening

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Nathaniel Ernstoff, MD University of Miami

Dr. Ernstoff

Nathaniel Ernstoff, MD
University of Miami

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Despite the best efforts of all healthcare providers, colon cancer screening is underutilized with screening rates ranging anywhere from 58-76% based on the state (American Cancer Society 2017). At best we are still failing to screen 25% of the population.  Patients have serious concerns about colorectal cancer (CRC) screening with the most common barriers to screening being fear of colonoscopy and of the bowel preparation, amongst others. These barriers coupled with the lack of understanding of the risks, benefits, and the efficacy of screening contribute to our inadequate screening.

This study aims to prove that through education, and most importantly comprehension, patients will choose one of the 6 recommended colorectal cancer screening tests that best fits their preferences. In this study we had 24 patients who previously refused colonoscopy on 3 separate occasions, and had no other CRC screening, undergo a virtual reality (VR) demonstration, created by TheBodyVR, to see if education would improve the uptake of screening. Prior to the virtual reality demonstration, the patients completed a 5-item questionnaire which evaluated their baseline knowledge of CRC risk, polyps and screening as well as determining barriers to prior screening. The patient then viewed the VR demonstration which starts with an overview of colorectal cancer, followed by a tour through a virtual colon explaining and showing the viewer polyps and cancer.

Finally, the demonstration reviews and compares the strengths and weaknesses of all USPSTF-recommended CRC screening tests.  After the study, the patients complete the same questionnaire, and in this study there was a statistically significant improvement in knowledge in all questions.  Ultimately, 23 of 24 patients who previously refused colorectal cancer screening on 3 separate occasions chose to undergo screening after the VR demonstration, and about 50% have performed the screening 60 days out from the study’s completion.

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Virtual Reality Improves Recall

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

University of Maryland researchers conducted one of the first in-depth analyses on whether people recall information better through virtual reality, as opposed to desktop computers. Credit: John T. Consoli / University of Maryland

A picture of Eric Krokos, UMIACS graduate student, using the EEG Headset while on the computer.

Eric Krokos
5th-year Ph.D. student in computer science
Augmentarium visualization lab

augmentarium.umiacs.umd.edu
University of Maryland 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: I am interested in exploring the use of virtual and augmented reality in high-impact areas like education, medicine, and high-proficiency training. For VR and AR to excel as a learning tool, we felt there needed to be a baseline study on whether people would perceive information better, and thus learn better, in an immersive, virtual environment as opposed to viewing information on a two-dimensional desktop monitor or handheld device.

Our comprehensive user-study showed initial results that people are able to recall information using virtual reality—there was an 8.8 percent improvement in recall ability from our study participants using VR. Continue reading

Using Virtual Reality To Teach Medical Student Empathetic Communication Skills

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Frederick W. Kron, MD

President and Founder of Medical Cyberworlds, Inc
Department of Family Medicine,Ann Arbor, MI and
Michael D. Fetters, M.D., M.P.H., M.A.
Professor of Family Medicine
University of Michigan

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this technology and study?

Dr. Kron: Communication is the most important component of the doctor-patient relationship. I know that through research, but also through personal experience. As a cancer survivor, I’ve seen first-hand the difference that outstanding communication skill can make to a vulnerable patient.

At the beginning of the project, we asked medical educators about the challenges they had in assessing and training communication competency. They told us that technical skills are easy to teach and assess, but communication skills are mainly behavioral skills that involve verbal and nonverbal behaviors, facial expressions, and many other cues that pass between patient and provider. That’s hard to teach and assess. Activities like role play with standardized patients (SPs) have been widely used, but it’s impossible for SPs to accurately portray these behaviors, or for faculty to fully assess the nuanced behaviors of both learner and patient. Supporting this idea is a lack of evidence proving that SP encounters translate in behavioral changes or transfer into clinical settings.

Developments in virtual reality provided us with a great opportunity for assessing and teaching of communication behaviors. Working with a national group of experts, we created computer-based Virtual Humans that interact with learners using the full range of behaviors you’d expect from two people talking together. They are so behaviorally realistic and compelling, that they trigger emotional responses in learners, and make learners want to learn so they can do their best.

Dr. Fetters: Our team has particular interest in doctor-patient communication in the context of cancer. There are many critical aspects of cancer communication: breaking the bad news to the patient, negotiating sometimes conflicting family opinions about treatment, and communication among team members about the patient’s care, just to name a few. We’ve begun building out those scenarios in the technological platform we developed, Mpathic-VR.

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