Seeking a Digital Empathy Trainer Technology for Training of Healthcare Professionals

Background / Description

A palliative care research and education centre seek a learning solution for the delivery and assessment of specialised communications training for healthcare professionals, as the targeted learners. The solution may adopt a digital simulation method as scalability, standardisation, replicability and sustained engagement is important to us. The solution should also be able to present a range of patient/client scenarios for authentic realism to the training. The solution should also be able to assess the learner’s responses and give feedback for performance improvement.

Effective communication with patients has been shown to improve quality of care, lower healthcare costs and enhance the patient experience (Deland, 2018; Leonard, 2017; Boissy, 2016; Dwamena, 2012). However, studies have shown that current structured communication skills training is often ineffective due to the lack of time and competing priorities (Deland, 2018; Rosenbaum, 2017; Gooch, 2016). 

Studies have shown that communication skills are essential in end-of-life (EOL) care (Brighton, 2017; You, 2015; Slort, 2014). In the current blended learning curriculum provided by PAL, communication training is emphasized in all its courses. This training is carried out using a variety of teaching methods including case studies, online learning, role-play and discussion. Despite positive feedback on the quality of the training, there is a limit to the numbers of learners who can be trained due to limited resources and time.

With the rapid increase in the ageing population and chronic illnesses, Palliative Care is increasingly important (Gan Kim Yong, Health Minister, 2017). This creates an urgency for more Palliative Care training for healthcare professionals at the generalist level.

Now the challenge is to increase accessibility of Palliative Care training to more healthcare professionals, without reducing the quality and effectiveness of training. One of the key components in Palliative Care training across any disciplines is End-of-Life Communication with patients and families.

Technical Specifications

The seeker seeks a proof of concept to show the potential of using simulation (and any other similar) technology/methodology to train communication in serious conversation with patients who have terminal illnesses. The trainer software shall include assessment capabilities to assess the competency of the trainees.

  1. As the intention is for communication in serious conversation, the voice and the look of the patients and healthcare professionals need to be as real as possible to increase empathy.
  2. The target is busy healthcare professionals; hence the solution has to be easily accessible anytime, anywhere.
  3. As the solution is meant for training purpose, there have to be some components of assessment. For example, in the form of feedback (formative assessment).
  4. Different scenarios presented to learners.

Measures of Success

  1. The authenticity of the characters in the simulation – how real they look and sound
    1. The availability of assessment & providing feedback (formative, summative, real-time)
    2. The capability of anchoring the simulation on expert knowledge in communication
    3. Ease of use (of the solution)
    4. The impact on learners’ competencies


The solution will be recognized as a new industry standard for training effective and quality conversation with patients and families.

Preferred Business Model

  • R&D Collaboration
  • Licensing
  • IP Acquisition
  • Business Collaboration (Joint Venture, Distribution)

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