Virtual/Augmented Reality And Empathy

You may remember that a week or so ago, I did a riff on empathy. I discussed the fact that psychologists speak of three forms of empathy. I can cognitively understand what you are going through, or I can actually experience the emotions that you are experiencing, or I can actually be moved to help you with your issues. Or all of the above. 

Let’s take that discussion one step further. Check this out. What you will see and hear in this 3-minute video is Will Garner of Tipping Point Media discussing how Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can be used to create empathy, tightening the bond between representative and physician and between physician and patient. 

Sort of a fascinating discussion, actually. Got me thinking about the post I did on empathy. Got me asking myself the question as to what kinds of empathy VR and AR are actually trying to raise, how successful they will be in doing so and what behaviors might change as a result. My best guess is that while these technologies will attract interest and engagement, which in and of itself is a good thing, they are not likely to increase physician empathy. I am guessing that most Rheumatologists already understand the pain experienced by a rheumatoid arthritis patient and are anxious to help if they can. Similarly, most Ophthalmologists likely “get” the negative impact of macular degeneration and are frankly quite frustrated that there is often not a lot that they can do to help. Does either specialty really “feel” the pain of the patient? No, but that is probably okay.

Bottom Line. As with every potential application of technology, one is left to answer the question “To what end?”  While VR and AR, like many new technologies, are genuinely whiz bang, I increasingly ask questions about where are we going with all this? Clearly, Will’s presentation focuses on the technologies’ ability to increase empathy. But inquiring minds want to know … Then what???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *