PI: Phil Campbell, Engineering Research Accelerator
Hospitals and associated healthcare infrastructure are faced with the challenge of meeting the ever-increasing needs of an increasingly older and frailer population. By 2030, this elderly population will be 72.1 million representing 19% of the population. Ninety million people in the US live with at least one chronic illness. Many of these patients are the elderly with multiple chronic morbidities and undergo extensive periods of illness characterized by intermittent acute and intermittent acute symptom intensification interspersed with periods of relative stability. This often results in enormous stresses on healthcare systems, doctors and other clinical personnel, and patients and their families, as a result of inadequately treated physical distress, a fragmented care system and poor communication. Palliative care will be critical to the solution. Palliative care is an interdisciplinary medical specialty with the purpose to prevent and relieve suffering for all stages of disease, often encompassing years of chronic illness, and to support the best possible quality of life for patients and their families facing serious illness. Palliative care is increasingly important as increasing numbers of elderly and frail patients are homebound with multiple medical conditions, functional and cognitive impairments. In addition to the patient, their caregivers, many also aged and in ill health, are often unprepared to meet their care responsibilities. And, the stresses often incurred by the caregiver can result in them becoming the “forgotten” patient. Medical simulation training will be essential in ensuring successful palliative services intervention. We propose to develop 3-D virtual reality game-based training programs that will be the first such trainers for palliative care. The first trainer program will target medical students, nursing students, and clinical staff to improve their assessment skills for the at-home patient. The second program will target educating and training family caregivers.