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Training doctors’ social skills to break bad news: evaluation of the impact of virtual environment displays on the sense of presence


The way doctors deliver bad news has a significant impact on the therapeutic process. In order to facilitate doctor’s training, we have developed an embodied conversational agent simulating a patient to train doctors to break bad news. In this article, we present an evaluation of the virtual reality training platform comparing the users’ experience depending on the virtual environment displays: a PC desktop, a virtual reality headset, and four wall fully immersive systems. The results of the experience, including both real doctors and naive participants, reveal a significant impact of the environment display on the perception of the user (sense of presence, sense of co-presence, perception of the believability of the virtual patient), showing, moreover, the different perceptions of the participants depending on their level of expertise.

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  5. The scenario has been carefully chosen with the medical partners of the project for several reasons (e.g. the panel of resulting damages, the difficulty of the announcement, its standard characteristics of announce).


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This work has been funded by the French National Research Agency project ACORFORMED (ANR-14-CE24-0034-02) and supported by Grants ANR-16-CONV-0002 (ILCB), ANR-11-LABX-0036 (BLRI) and ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02 (A*MIDEX).

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Correspondence to Magalie Ochs.

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Ochs, M., Mestre, D., de Montcheuil, G. et al. Training doctors’ social skills to break bad news: evaluation of the impact of virtual environment displays on the sense of presence. J Multimodal User Interfaces 13, 41–51 (2019).

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  • Virtual reality
  • Presence
  • Training
  • Embodied conversational agent
  • Health domain
  • Breaking bad news