David Byun, MD, in collaboration with Kevin Du, MD, and Gregory Dorsainville, MPS, at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center is conducting a study to explore whether the application of mixed reality educational tools during consultation visits could better increase patient knowledge about radiation therapy, reduce anxiety and improve the quality of their overall treatment experience. Dr. Byun’s CurieUx (Curie User eXperience) mixed reality patient education software is designed to include a novel virtual reality 360 degree tour of simulation and treatment rooms for patients to explore, as well as interactive virtual disease-specific anatomy models to help physicians personalize their verbal explanation of each patient’s diagnosis and treatment.
Q&A with David Byun, MD
Why did you choose virtual and augmented reality to try to improve communication with patients during consultation visits for radiation therapy?
The complexities of radiation therapy require clinicians to effectively communicate in a concise and comprehensible manner to patients at initial consultation and thereafter. As such, it is heavily dependent upon the individual clinician’s verbal communication skills. With recent technological advancements in commercialized virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, it is now easier and more cost-effective than ever to enhance our verbal communication abilities with such multimedia visual tools.
How will CurieUx help patients better understand radiation therapy?
Prior investigations have shown that improved communication and knowledge delivery by the clinician at initial consultation provide patients with a sense of empowerment and reduction in anxiety. Transparency in communication and full disclosure of information regarding specific logistics, side effects and prognosis pertaining to the radiation treatment was also found to have the highest priority in patients during the initial consultation. As expected, the preferred method of communication and education was via visual and kinesthetic media. It is imperative then for both patients’ well-being and clinicians' workflow to effectively communicate and educate using a mutually beneficial medium. We believe that mixed reality is the perfect medium to make this happen.
How will you know whether CurieUx is helping patients?
Once developed, we plan on conducting a prospective single institutional study to assess for reduction in anxiety level associated with the implementation of our mixed reality software. Assessment of acute anxiety and distress will be performed using the previously validated cancer-specific Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) questionnaire at multiple times during a patient’s radiation therapy course. Further, evolution in radiation-specific knowledge and overall quality of radiation treatment experience from the intervention will be monitored as secondary endpoints.
If CurieUx is shown to help patients, how will other radiation oncologists be able to use it at their clinics?
Our project, CurieUx, will be generalizable to a larger population beyond our institution: our ultimate goal is to create a readily accessible and user-friendly mobile software application (“app”) that can be easily downloaded to any one of the already commercially available portable VR/AR headsets in the mass market. We envision a continuation of the initial consultation experience in which the patient may, for example, download the CurieUx Tour app to their smartphone and insert into a low-cost Google Cardboard headset for experiential consumption and re-exploration of the information introduced by the clinician at the office. We believe that release of our CurieUx VR tour experience as a free downloadable app for use by clinicians and patients alike will be more than reasonable to achieve within the scope of the current ROI grant funding opportunity.
Why is the grant from the ROI important to your research?
Generous financial support from the Radiation Oncology Institute is crucial to launching the initial stages of hardware acquisition, small scale software development, and clinical testing of our concept. While the product produced from the ROI’s grant will initially be limited to clinical application within our institution due to the complexities in development and maintenance of a proprietary software platform, it will be an important catalyst for educating clinicians and creating a dialogue on the benefits of integrating advanced multimedia technologies for enhancements of patient-specific experiences and well-being.