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Home Health Sciences Update: VR Award Winner

Update: VR Award Winner

Winner of the inaugural VR4Health Sciences Education grant program, “Using a Cultural Humility Framework to address Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) through Virtual Reality” project is designed to provide clinicians first-person perspective on the challenges patients may face in seeking health care. 

The game is designed to be a first-person VR experience where the player takes on the role of a Latina woman in her 50s who is dealing with uncontrolled oral pain due to her oral cancer. The player begins the game in the doctor’s office, where they have the opportunity to engage in a dialogue exchange with the doctor NPC. Throughout the game, the player can make choices that affect the progression of the narrative and the doctor’s responses. A UI (User Interface) element currently referred to as the “Tinkerbell Character” appears often to explain why the doctor is making mistakes and the patient’s feelings and interpretations of the situation. After the doctor’s visit, the player moves on to the pharmacy scene. Similar to the doctor’s office, the player selects dialogue choices and experiences the frustrations of the patient as the pharmacist character does not address the language and cultural barriers and other social determinants of health. 

 The team has been working on improving the UI elements, including the Tinkerbell features, dialogue choices, and progression. They have also added a diegetic UI that appears on a TV screen in the scene, showing the patient’s information, age, condition, and location. To further enhance the experience, the team is adding a pain, nausea, and stress meter that will increase based on certain dialogue choices. They are also including sections where NPC characters speak in a nonsensical manner to replicate the language barrier that a non-native English speaker might experience. The final scene will take place in the patient’s home, where the focus will be on the difficulties of aftercare for patients who are underrepresented in the healthcare system. 

The project has added an engineer and artist to the team and has been meeting regularly with healthcare partners to ensure the design and narrative accurately reflect the problems faced by underrepresented groups in the healthcare system. The development cycles run on 2-week sprints, and the team reviews their software builds with their partners at the end of each sprint. 

Once completed, the beta version of the project will be uploaded to the Eccles Health Sciences Library VR Repository, and library specialists will provide support in disseminating the tool and making it accessible within other hospital and educational settings. In time, the program could become a  standalone module available for incorporation into any classroom setting. 

About the Spencer S. Eccles Health Science Library 
The Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library serves University of Utah Health Care, the Intermountain  West’s only academic health sciences enter. The Library is recognized locally and nationally as a leader of intellectual exploration and as a catalyst for innovative discovery, and contributes to the success of health professionals, students, researchers and the community. 

About the Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab (The GApp Lab) 
The Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab (The GApp Lab) is collaborative effort between University of Utah Health and the Entertainment Arts Engineering Program at the University of Utah to research and develop meaningful ways to introduce clinically validated and playful video games, and virtual reality- based applications into hospitals, clinics, and at-home settings. The Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab (The GApp Lab) is a division of the Center for Medical Innovation at the University of Utah.