How hospitals are using AI to teach physicians to better express empathy

Hospitals and health systems across Europe and the U.S., including Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, are turning to artificial intelligence-powered "virtual patients" to train physicians on bedside manner, The Washington Post reports.

AI startup Virti has been working with hospitals for the past three years, with an uptick in clients since the start of the pandemic. The company offers AI-powered animations that are trained to interact with physicians and test them on practicing empathy and interpersonal skills, according to the report.

"What we wanted to do with the virtual patient was create a scalable, data-driven way for people to practice their soft skills and communication," Virti founder Alex Young, MD, said.

Virti's software works on either a smartphone or computer, and the company can also give physicians virtual headsets for a more immersive experience. After the training session, physicians are scored based on their speed, the questions they asked the AI and whether they got the virtual patient's diagnosis correct.

Cedars-Sinai started out as a customer of Virti's before becoming an investor in 2019; the health system led a $2 million seed round for Virti. The United Kingdom's public health system NHS has also used the software along with the health education center at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, which is using the company's tech to tutor future clinicians on communication and reasoning skills.


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