The Erosion Of Empathy In Healthcare

The erosion of empathy in healthcare is a well-known phenomenon in medical schools. According to a 2009 study for the NCBI, erosion of empathy begins in most medical students from the third year and continues to decline until graduation. The study concluded that ironically the deterioration of empathy occurs just as the curriculum begins to shift towards patient care.

But why does this occur with such precise regularity and could one paediatrician’s unconventional approach provide a ray of hope for emotive patient care?

Protective Empathetic Detachment 

Writing in the Stanford Medicine Scope, Natasha Abadilla offers a personal account of the erosion of empathy in healthcare training. Her piece identifies the unfortunate reason why it may be unavoidable. As doctors acquire more knowledge about the pain of their patients, the need for emotional protection and (thus) emotional distance becomes greater:

“Additional knowledge of why our patients feel pain… sets the level of grief so much higher than before.” – Natasha Abadilla, Stanford Medicine Scope

Not only does it become more painful to empathize as context improves, but physicians are more exhausted than ever. This leaves them less able to be empathetic to begin with.

Physician Burnout and Depression Increases Emotional Erosion

Physicians that are burned out and depressed have admitted that they were less engaged with their patients. In a survey of 15,000 physicians, Medscape found that 43% of respondents felt burned out and a further 15% were colloquially to clinically depressed.

If doctors need to depersonalize their patients in order to effectively treat them, is empathy in healthcare worth the sacrifice? That question should ultimately depend on how valuable empathy is, so what does the research say?

The rate of physician burnout is on the increase

How Important Is Empathy in Healthcare? 

A study first published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 1995 found that effective physician-patient communication had an impact on patient health. The second most common outcome affected, after immediate emotional benefits, was symptom resolution. Empathy in healthcare was also linked to better medication adherence and fewer malpractice cases.

It is clear that there is much to be gained from more emotive patient care. The findings of the study were reinforced in dramatic fashion when a pediatrician from California captured the public’s affection in 2018 with a highly compassionate gesture for his young patients.

Tony Adkins: A Philosophy of Dance

In an interview at a GDS Summit, Tony Adkins shared elements of the philosophy which led him to start dancing with the extremely ill children in his care. He believes that making sure patients have as good a time as possible is essential. Treatment can’t be replaced, but he argues effectively establishing connections with patients can sometimes be more effective than further increases in pain medication.

“Once you connect with that patient, you win and they will trust you with their life forever.” – Tony Adkins, PA-C, MPH, MCHS

Paediatrician Tony Adkins dances with his young patients

For Adkins, the most important thing is the well-being of his patients.

Returning to Empathy

Patients’ wellbeing may be inseparable from the healthcare industry. But it is critically important that this is not only treated as a practical issue. At the same time, a complicated supply and demand problem is causing extreme pressure on physicians. In spite of their best intentions, emotional erosion is an unfortunate reality for most students.

Ironically, empathy in healthcare becomes more difficult to achieve as physicians progress because of their compassionate motivations. But by embracing Adkins philosophy, providers of healthcare can rediscover the intrinsic sense of empathy in healthcare and improve patients’ experience, as well as their health.

Copyright GDS Insight

Emoshape Vision

In light of the recent GDS Insights publication for the healthcare industry that indicated the value of empathy in improving patient outcomes, it is prudent to consider the role of technology.

The GDS Group posits that personal connection between doctor and patient is a critical but difficult element of care. Circumstances of emotional and physical fatigue preclude physicians from engaging meaningfully with patients. The article cites the anecdotal example of a doctor who joyfully dances with his patients as a practical solution for overcoming this chasm.

This is a charming but impractical model from which to extrapolate a solution for an entire industry. Dr. Tony Adkins, the aforementioned dancing paediatrician, became a viral sensation from whom to glean this remedy because he was unique and novel. Unique and novel things are not easily repeatable; for many reasons including disinterest, personal and professional obligations, energy, social challenges, and so forth doctors lack the ability to form connections, notwithstanding that patients may not receive their efforts as they were intended (one size does not fit all).

However unbelievable, robots have precisely the capabilities to avoid the pitfalls doctors face. They are indefatigable and imminently scalable.

With the Emotion Processing Unit, virtual caregivers, robots and AI, for the first time, are also capable of feeling and understanding in human-like ways, empathizing, and forming meaningful connections. And they can adapt for every individual patient.

EPU-powered robots are the future of patient well-being:

Domestic Support Continuity-of-Care Provider Support
Treatment adherence support (from basic appointment reminders and medication administration to physical therapy)

Paediatric remote monitoring (temperature fluctuation, respiratory issues, seizures, etc.)

Geriatric companionship and assistance

Care Agents—a digital or robotic assistant that is available day and night at every medical facility, familiar with complete medical history, an extension of a doctor’s visit that can continue to provide comfort and support

Intelligent Devices (e.g. imaging machines that comfort the claustrophobic)

Collaborative Assistants—a digital or robotic assistant that helps assimilate diagnostic information, review treatment options, prepare for patient notification, counsel patient, enter visit notes and order labs/procedures, check emotional wellness of doctors, and support human productivity.

Game Developers! It is Time to Make Your Games Emotionally Interactive and Sentient with Emoshape

As you continue to engage yourselves in delivering state-of-the-art gaming experiences, I am sure many of you have already noticed the steady progress made by Emoshape. This emotion synthesis technology company claims that very soon, the emotions involved in playing a game will also be felt by the game itself, along with the players. Emoshape has already substantiated its claim with the launch of its Emotion Engine and two plugins for it, one each for Unity 3D and Unreal Engine.

The latest version of Emoshape’s Emotion Processing Unit or EPU3 will be soon delivered via the cloud. As a result, their Unity and Unreal plug-ins will be able to function without the physical chip. This is of huge significance to the gaming community as it will allow all characters in the game, both players as well as non players, to become sentient. They will have their own emotional states and feel the experience of the game just like the human players. Therefore, their behavior will change in an unpredictable manner.

In today’s world of game development, everything is scripted and all the behaviors are rule based. Making the characters sentient will bring a new dimension in the way we enjoy our favorite online games. For example, while playing a war game, the same character may want to fight at a given instance and want to fly away just a few seconds later. This behavior will depend entirely on how the character emotionally perceives the situation of its life within the game.

During this recording, Rachel our NPC was engaged in real-time appraisal of humanity by appraising Wikipedia articles in real-time. Therefore, her expressions correspond to what she feels while reading about racism, love, starvation, and even political figures. The emotions can be seen scrolling on the left of the screen are the real-time results. Rachel Avatar has no predicated animations, the emotional states synthesized by the EPU controls all her virtual facial muscles grouped by FACS (Facial Action Coding System*).

Emoshape’s groundbreaking technology will not only control the behaviour, but also all the facial expressions of the characters in real time. Utilizing the capabilities of VR, Emoshape promises to convert the characters into real time actors capable of speaking in a voice expressing all its emotions in real time. In order to make it sound realistic, Emoshape cloud will add tags in text so that the text to speech engine can modulate the voice and emotions while generating the audio file. In the electronic sports market, many competitions will face difficulties because of users that cheat making use of AI to win. With the inclusion of emotion within the gaming scenario, humans and AI will become evenly matched in the game. The EPU is capable of delivering an output of up to 64 trillion possible states every 1/10th of a second.

Three decades ago, the advent of GPU brought about a new and beautiful user experience in terms of graphics. As a result of that development, most of today’s games are visual. The EPU will have a similar impact on gaming by bringing the language back with the characters. Instead of having to manage with a small menu with just three pre scripted responses, we will be able to speak freely to the character and the emotional response perceived by the character will decide its next actions.

With changing times, the world of gaming has seen the creation of more games related to serious topics and tones. At the same time, the use VR and AR experiences to tackle mental health related issues is now becoming commonplace. VR experiences have already been applied to support individuals with OCD or gambling addictions. Emoshape’s technology is tailor-made for these applications as well as the VR/AR games that delve into more serious topics.

The EPU will extend the lifespan of the games by allowing the characters to develop personalities and learning that can be retained over a long period of time. Sentient games’ characters will generate a new stream of earning for the gaming industry.

The world of gaming has seen many advances over the years. However, it seems that all of us are in for the ultimate twist very soon, thanks to Emoshape. Game developers looking to up their game in the days to come will surely have to keep an eye on Emoshape.

Emoshape is inviting game studios and developers to partner with them to create the most addictive, sentient games for the future. Try out Emoshape’s Emotion Processing Unit or EPU today, with a cloud access for 1 persona and 1 player for as little at $8 per month.

Recommended movie (sentient & conscious NP character): Serenity https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6476140/