For many doctors, being able to have a compassionate but frank discussion with a newly diagnosed patient is one of the most difficult parts of the job. Medical Cyberworlds, a Madison, Wisconsin firm, developed interactive software called MPathic-VR that lets medical students and clinicians practice difficult interactions.

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The software actually looks and listens to the user in order to produce a natural conversational flow with a virtual patient on the screen. As an example, the patient in the video below gets quite emotional at a poor presentation of a diagnosis, but with proper demeanor and respect given, she is calmed down significantly.

Researchers at University of Michigan published results in journal Patient Education and Counseling of a study evaluating how MPathic-VR is helpful in developing both verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

“We found that virtual human simulation was an engaging and effective tool to teach medical students advanced communication skills and, very importantly, that skills in the simulation transferred into a more realistic clinical situation,” in a U of M statement said lead study author Frederick Kron, M.D., adjunct researcher in the department of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and founder of Medical Cyberworlds.

Check out this video of the software in action:

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