Drugmakers turn to tech to better demonstrate empathy
By: SARAH MAHONEY
Drugmakers are coming up simulators so that people – loved ones can see what a particular disease looks like. It’s no secret that American healthcare suffers from an empathy deficit. While brusque doctors have been blighting patient-satisfaction surveys for years, providers themselves increasingly say it’s a problem: In a Harvard Medical School survey, 53% of doctors reported declining levels of patient empathy.
Pharma is increasingly unhappy with the status quo. In conjunction with their health-tech peers, more organizations are leaping into the empathy breach, using new approaches that go beyond the emotional and theoretical underpinnings of human kindness.
Rather than asking non-patients to imagine what it’s like to have Parkinson’s disease, Klick Labs’ SymPulse tele-empathy device wirelessly transmits patient tremors to another individual so that person can try to clutch a coffee cup with trembling hands. Similarly, Embodied Labs’ Alfred Project VR experience recreates the isolation that comes with hearing loss and macular degeneration as felt by a 74-year-old man. And Sanofi Genzyme, which markets Lemtrada and other MS drugs, based its Impact of MS Experience, a computer challenge to help doctors, around feeling the frustration of early disease symptoms.
While the conditions and technologies differ, the so-called empathy machines approach their task from the same philosophical place: That experiencing illnesses from a patient’s point of view can help providers and caregivers better understand an illness, which in turn should increase both their empathy and effectiveness in their roles.
It would be easy to credit the wave of new approaches to the headset-obsessed world of Silicon Valley, but these interventions actually owe more to breakthroughs in the science of empathy itself. There’s growing proof that empathy pays off for healthcare: A recent Massachusetts General Hospital study found that 65% of patient satisfaction — now linked to reimbursements in many cases — is attributed to physician empathy…..