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ASU Researchers Use Facial Recognition to Help Doctors Interact with Patients

Technology could be the key to better doctor-patient interactions.  Arizona State University researchers say facial recognition and voice analysis may help health care workers communicate better with patients and build trust.  Maya Springhawk Robnett of the Arizona Science Desk reports.

Dr. Jack Chisum is a clinical associate professor at the College of Health Solutions at ASU.  He has researched how to improve communication between patients and their doctors for more than three decades.  Chisum and fellow researchers at ASU are now developing technological tools to do just that.

With facial recognition technology they analyze four-hundred ninety-one points on a patient’s face, and voice analysis software evaluates emotions in a patient’s speech.  Playing back the interactions, Chisum is able to show health care workers how to better communicate with their patients.  

“What is happening in that dialogue?" Chisum asks. "In motivational interviewing, we call it 'the dance' because we want to have a symmetry of movement.  So, if the practitioner in this case is asking a question and the other person on the other side has trouble decoding the question, there is miscommunication.”

The goal is not to gauge every patient’s reactions with technology.  Rather, Chisum says, it is to use the technology as a training tool to help practitioners learn how to “read” their patients on their own and subsequently build trust.

If patients trust their doctors, Chisum says they will be less likely to lie about health problems and more likely to follow doctors’ recommendations.