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The Making of Medicine

Keeping Watch on the Patient Experience

Researchers with UVA's Schools of Nursing, Medicine and Education have developed a wearable way for doctors and nurses to improve their interactions with patients.

The researchers have developed a prototype smartwatch that can monitor conversations between clinicians and their patients and suggest ways for the care providers to improve their bedside manner and enhance the patient experience.

The prototype is called "CommSense," and the idea for it came to the School of Nursing's Virginia LeBaron, PhD, after she noticed a friend using an electronic activity tracker to monitor sleep data.

“I thought, ‘We really need something like that to help healthcare providers communicate more effectively with patients in real time,’” LeBaron said. “It’s taken a while to turn that idea into reality, but, thanks to an amazing team, the results are promising. I’m excited to see how CommSense will perform in real clinical encounters.”

CommSense listens for words and phrases that convey warmth, empathy and openness. It also flags up when the doctor or nurse interrupts the patient, talks too much or uses medical jargon the average person may not understand.

LeBaron worked to develop the prototype with Drs. Tabor Flickinger and David Ling from the School of Medicine and Laura Barnes and Mehdi Boukhechba from the School of Engineering.

The research team hopes the device's feedback will improve patients' satisfaction with their care and reduce their stress and pain levels. They also hope it will cut medication mistakes and reduce the number of patients who need to be readmitted to the hospital.

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