SCAN Health Plan to use virtual reality to boost empathy for seniors

SCAN Health Plan executives say they plan to work toward increasing sensitivity toward senior citizens by using virtual reality.

SCAN, a Medicare Advantage health insurer based in Long Beach, Calif., has announced it is partnering with digital experience agency Primacy to launch Trading Ages Virtual Reality (TAVR), which the two companies hope will bring to light the unique physical, emotional and social challenges of growing older.

Melissa Tait, managing director at West Palm Beach-based Primacy, says the partnership with SCAN creates a unique opportunity. "We all have loved ones who are growing older and don't necessarily realize the hardships they face as they age,” she says. “Virtual reality has been shown to improve retention and recall and is suitable for different learning styles—not to mention the element of fun it brings to the instruction."

The companies say their partnership will pioneer a new era of sensitivity training, offering new insights and fresh perspectives. TAVR will be available to anyone who interacts with senior citizens regularly, including individuals, businesses, organizations and government entities.

SCAN has been working on increasing understanding of what it takes to serve an older population with its Trading Ages workshop, where participants go through role-playing simulations to experience age-related conditions such as hearing loss, vision changes and loss of dexterity. The partnership with Primacy will take it to a new level by adding virtual reality, SCAN says.

TAVR will immerse users in a combination of audio and visual effects that simulate physical and emotional challenges. The user is guided through a series of scenarios that mirror what it is like to live with hearing loss or macular degeneration, and how it feels to have a spouse with dementia. These simulated encounters are designed to give participants a real sense of the physical, social and emotional aspects of aging, Primacy says.

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Romilla Batra, MD

"The aging experience is one that we all have in common, yet it is highly misunderstood,” says Romilla Batra, MD, chief medical officer of SCAN Health Plan. “As the population of older adults grows significantly in coming years, it is vitally important for communities and organizations, as well as family members, to have a better understanding of the challenges seniors face.”

Josh Goode, chief information officer of SCAN Health Plan, says that seeing the vision of TAVR “come to life,” with its ability to provide new tools to help families and communities gain a new-found appreciation for the struggles many seniors face, is extremely rewarding. “Our ability to provide a deeply moving experience and understanding in a short amount of time allows those who experience TAVR to make changes that ultimately impact our communities as a whole," he says.

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