18 November 2016

Festive transfer of software for training health care professionals

Virtual Patient helps build a better world

The agreement is signed by Mirko Lukács (Utrecht University), Victor Everhardt (Gemeente Utrecht), Marjan Oudeman (Utrecht University), Petra van Wezel (Stichting Volte) and Michiel Hulsbergen (DialogueTrainer).

Utrecht University and the City of Utrecht have officially handed over the Virtual Patient baton to the startup DialogueTrainer B.V. and Volte Foundation. Together they will market the product. The Virtual Patient is a serious game that health care professionals can use to practice difficult conversations with patients. During the festive event at the Utrecht Municipal Office building, Utrecht University officially handed the marketing of the software over to the startup firm DialogueTrainer B.V. Marjan Oudeman, president of Utrecht University: “I see it as ‘mission accomplished’. It’s a wonderful project with a great image and a major social impact, both in our own region and beyond. It allows us all to contribute our bit to creating a better world, and that’s what it’s all about in the end.”

The City of Utrecht transferred the scenario development and training aspects of Virtual Patient to the Volte Foundation. Hetty Linden, Director of Public Health at the City of Utrecht: “I hadn’t expected the game to be able to mimic emotions so well, and to allow you to feel them so strongly. The conversations really affect you. After the first session, I knew: this is going to be an important product.” Alderman Victor Everhardt praised the centuries-long partnership between the city and the university. “It’s great that we can make these new strides together. We consider the applications of innovation to be extremely important.”

Health care education

The Virtual Patient has its roots in education: the Communicate! project was started in response to lecturers’ requests for a tool to teach communication skills at health care study programmes. The software was developed by Computer Science students, and was initially used by the study programmes Psychology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. The game was then elaborated into a useable tool in collaboration with the City of Utrecht. Now that the Virtual Patient has been developed as a complete tool for communication training, we can take the next step of embedding it in national and international health care and education.

Three of the students that designed the Virtual Patient: Jordy van Dortmond, Marcell van Geest and Ricardo Westerbeek, with professor Johan Jeuring.

Noisy colleague

Volte Foundation will use the game to address challenges in health care practice, especially in cases where several parties deal with the same client. But as shown during the festive event, the game has far wider applications: the screen displayed a colleague holding a loud telephone conversation, and the participants had to choose how to address the virtual character’s behaviour. DialogueTrainer will concentrate on expanding the portfolio of scenarios in the near future.

Scientific symposium

Prior to the festive conference, a scientific symposium was held in the municipal office building to discuss how to use the software to practice communication skills. Four researchers talked about the successes - and the challenges - of using virtual characters for practicing conversations.

Report

RTV Utrecht was present at the event, and produced this brief report (in Dutch).