Building Emotional Availability through ‘Tele-empathy’

A Harvard study demonstrated that 53% of clinicians reported declining levels of empathy after several years of practicing of medicine, with only 33% reporting increasing levels of empathy.  

Being a clinician is a tough job, and it’s understandable that at some level you must disconnect from your work to prevent emotional overload.  Likewise, it can be quite difficult for clinicians, med reps, or even family members to truly understand the pain or ‘lived experience’ of patients with severe or chronic diseases.  

This is because it’s hard to imagine what it actually feels like to live with a disease like Parkinson’s or excruciating migraines.  This lack of emotional availability (the tendency to rely on easy-to-access or easy-to-imagine examples in our everyday lives) limits HCPs, family, and friends from truly understanding the patient experience, and can at times, lead to sub-optimal care.

Recently, there have been increased efforts by pharmaceutical companies to develop ‘empathy devices’ which enable others to actually feel what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s Disease, for example.  By using ‘tele-empathy,’ a device can be connected to a patient with Parkinson’s to a healthy individual.  This device can actually transmit the tremors to allow the other person to physically experience the disease in real-time. 

Beyond this, there are many more applications.  These devices can not only build empathy between sick patients and their caregivers, but they can also demonstrate the impact treatment can have—whether showing how symptoms will be reduced with medical treatment or simulating the impact of leaving the disease untreated. 

As healthcare marketers, we emphasise that the patient is at the heart of everything we do.  We repeat this phrase over and over again until it’s almost cliché, but sometimes we need a more tangible reminder of what it’s like to be one of the patients that we serve.   

Check out some videos demonstrating tele-empathy devices below! 

Parkinson's patient Jim Smerdon uses the SymPulse™ Tele-Empathy Device to wirelessly transmit his tremors to his identical twin brother Pat for the first time.

Elisabeth is a longtime migraine sufferer - and although her mother, Catherine, tries to understand what a migraine feels like, she just can't. That's why Excedrin built the world's first migraine simulator. See what happens…

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