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‘The doctor needs to look at the patient as a person with a problem, not as a problem.’

By Shula Rosen

Medical practitioners can often be overworked and rushed and may not fully empathize with their patients when delivering healthcare.

If patients don’t feel their doctors empathize with them, they may experience emotional stress, confusion, or upset that can interfere with their full recovery.

An Israeli startup, OrtheReality, leverages virtual reality to allow healthcare professionals to envision treatment from their patients’ perspectives.

Yotvat Palter-Dycian, co-founder and chief operating officer of OtheReality, said, “The doctor needs to look at the patient as a person with a problem, not as a problem.”

The startup was developed in partnership with Bar-Ilan University and Sheba Medical Center’s ARC Innovation Center, and it is being piloted at Sheba and other Israeli hospitals.

OtheReality founder and chief creative officer Motti Neiger, a communications professor at Bar-Ilan University, said, “A lack of empathy is affecting everyone everywhere — globally, not only in Israel. It’s not only in the healthcare field.”

He added, “It also affects education, business settings, and more. There is a lot of research on this.”

The absence of empathy can lead to problems for both patients and medical staff, including a lack of patient compliance with physicians’ instructions, a lack of patient satisfaction, higher rates of readmission and burnout, and increased stress among hospital staff.

With VR technology and easy-to-use headsets, OrtheReality can help medical staff maintain their “empathy muscle” in working conditions.

The VR headset is connected to an audio feed, and using the app, the user can select a scene from the patient’s perspective to view.

Once the user inserts the phone in the holder attached to the VR headset, it’s possible to see 360 degrees throughout the room.

The app, through re-creating the audio and visuals of the scene, virtually puts the doctor in the place of the patient.

Prof. Eran Weiner, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon said, “We immediately understood that this is a great tool, especially for obstetricians and gynecologists.”

Weiner added, “We have many staff members who are from the other gender [than the patients]. So by definition, they couldn’t have experienced the medical conditions associated with our profession.”

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