The Royal Society of Medicine has signed a deal with edtech startup, Bodyswaps, to create exclusive healthcare training simulations powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).
The innovative modules developed through the partnership will allow doctors and other healthcare professionals to learn and practise essential, patient-centred soft skills.
The training takes place in a virtual environment and can be experienced with a VR headset or in front of a display screen. This offers an innovative way of enhancing soft skill development in a safe digital space.
On entering the virtual environment, the user will play out a scenario, interacting with an AI avatar. They will then ‘swap’ bodies with the avatar, while the scenario is played back to them, providing them with detailed feedback on what they said, how they said it and, in the full version, non-verbal communication, such as body language and eye contact.
Interacting with an AI avatar, not a real person, is believed to lower the inhibitions that can sometimes stifle progress in human-to-human training scenarios.
The software is already used in over 100 organisations globally and has recently been deployed to help mental-health practitioners prepare for conversations with patients suffering from acute anxiety.
Professor Mary Bishop, Director of Learning at the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “We believe this is a compelling statement of intent, to firmly establish our place as a leader in the world of digital education.
“Through digital platforms, and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are already empowering healthcare professionals around the world to access our leading medical education. But we have only scratched the surface of what innovative and immersive technologies can do for our members and those in the health sector who access our education.
“Bodyswaps is a leader in skills training powered by AI and VR, and we are incredibly excited about what we can build together.”
Christophe Mallet, CEO and Co-founder of Bodyswaps, said: “We want to work with the very best partners and are excited to bring our cutting-edge solution to this project, collaborating with a centuries-old yet forward-thinking institution in the Royal Society of Medicine.
“This is a unique opportunity to make medical learning truly experiential in an area that has been under served.”
To ensure academic rigour and specialist knowledge, the RSM has contracted a leading expert in improving healthcare professionals’ communication with patients. Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield, Professor of Psycho Oncology at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, will advise on course content.
Professor Bishop added: “Having Dame Lesley on board is crucial as she has world-leading expertise and understands better than anyone the communications skills that healthcare professionals need, particularly in challenging medical situations.”
Development is already under way on the first course module, which will be co-created and tested during beta stages with student and trainee members of the RSM.