Ohio State virtual reality training prepares residents for patients with language barriers

Columbus-based Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center implemented a virtual reality training program that helps expose residents to patient interactions with individuals who speak another language, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

The medical center developed the virtual reality software by recording body movements of medical students to use for the simulation. The virtual patients can respond to the residents with various emotions, including anger, confusion or sadness. After a resident completes a virtual reality session, the system can provide instant feedback such as identifying certain questions he or she forgot to ask.

"What [the residents] need to practice is speaking with someone whom English is not their first language," Douglas Danforth, PhD, academic program director at Ohio State University's college of medicine, told Columbus Dispatch. He said the main goal of the program is to help teach residents how to break through language barriers when communicating with a patient to document his or her medical history.

The artificial intelligence-powered software features 13 virtual reality patients, which the residents can interact with using a headset and an application on an iPad or web browser. The university rolled out the program last month and it is currently looking to buy more headsets.

The program is funded through a $5.5 million Ohio Department of Medicaid grant, which OSU is sharing with five additional Ohio-based medical schools. The funding supports initiatives that increase cultural competency of Medicaid providers by using virtual reality simulations.

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