The Empathy Simulator: Curtin develops hi-tech simulations for healthcare trainees


Dr Janet Beilby: How do you prepare health students to work in demanding, complex and often emotional situations? The best way is to place them in real-life clinical situations, or at least simulate
these as closely as possible. Voice Over: Unfortunately, clinical placements are limited and very costly. Alternatively, such as using trained actors to role-play are also expensive and limited to training small numbers of students. Student: “Hello Jim, what brings you here today?” Jim: “My memory isn’t what it used to be.” Student: “Okay well we can help with some…” Voice Over: The solution is the Empathy Simulator; a world-first avatar-based patient simulator designed to train students in clinical empathy. It’s the result of decades of collaborative research by Curtin and George Washington Universities,
now brought to life by Citrine Technologies in America, a world leader in computer simulation. Meet Jim, a digital avatar, looking very much like an elderly retired farmer. Student: “…your communication or your memory.” The avatar has around 50 verbal and non-verbal responses that are currently, controlled
by a trainer. The trainee’s interaction can be recorded
for self-reflection and feedback. The Empathy Simulator is a cost-effective way of providing comparable standards from trainee to trainee. Application of this compelling marriage of scientific rigour and cutting edge technology, has applications beyond the health care sector. Jim: “Goodbye now.” Student: “Seeya.” Voice Over: Future developments
will include voice recognition software, and a range of avatars, so the practice is portable and tailored to a variety of contexts for real life learning. Currently there are few commercial competitors in this software space which has an estimated market value of more
than $400 million in the next few years. Dr Janet Beilby: Every year, there are more students and yet less resources to train them to the standard the community expects and deserves. Our avatar may be ‘virtual’ but the learning is very real.

Daniel Yohans

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