It's an unfortunate reality. Everyone either has been, or knows someone who has been affected by cancer or another serious illness. Most of us can relate to the hardships of watching a loved one suffer from the emotional ups and downs of this difficult journey. However, if entrepreneur Diane Jooris has anything to do with it, there may be a way to lessen the pain. Based on new research into the healing power of virtual reality, her company, Oncomfort, is designed to help alleviate the anxieties of medical procedures and treatments.
According to CNN, "immersive virtual reality systems are starting to be developed for use by patients during painful procedures, such as dental procedures or changing burns dressings. Addiction in the digital age. The idea is that by placing oneself in this highly immersive virtual world, we are distracted from the painful experience."
Jooris is a wife and a mother of three with a master's degree in clinical psychology and a specialization in hypnosis. Jooris is also a forward-thinking health entrepreneur who is looking to technology to help ease the pain of long-term care.
“I've always been extremely impressed by the impacts that the mind can have on the body and what we can do only by turning our thoughts and our minds in a different direction," she says.
“We won't close the door for anyone… we are there for everybody."
Jooris has been working with medical patients as a volunteer, mental health professional and researcher for the past twenty years. In the last four years she has been working as a specialist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. It was also four years ago that Jooris' sister was diagnosed with cancer.
Soon Jooris witnessed first-hand the exhaustion and physiological effects of cancer treatment, which when combined make it difficult for patients to get the emotional support they need. It was then that the idea of Oncomfort was first born.
Through her specialties in hypnosis, Jooris knew the effect that the hypnosis techniques can have on patients. Unfortunately, that is quite often too limited for patients such as Jooris' sister who aren't able to get to a doctor's office. After experimenting with hypnosis audio recordings, Jooris realized that there needed to be another component--virtual reality.“You need to have something that compensates and counterbalances [a real live person]."
With virtual reality, the patient is fully immersed into a situation that is removed from whatever procedure they are going through. The main goal is to put the patient through a state of disassociation through a “different" environment. While listening solely to an audio, 15% of people don't have the skills to come up with a visual on their own, which is why the virtual reality itself is so important.
While in Houston, Jooris was introduced to Joowon Kim, a previous founder of virtual reality game company. Together, the two identified the needs of both doctors and patients, and then created a prototype to ship to doctors in different countries. After receiving feedback from the doctors, they adapted the prototype to try on patients, where they received even more feedback. It's this ongoing process that keeps the product thoroughly improving.
“Passion is major, and if you have a vision, and your main goal is genuine… I think you are able to make things happen."
Jooris says that she was with one patient who was smiling while on the operating table, and the patient said, “This is wonderful--I'm swimming with dolphins!" The limits of virtual reality are essentially endless. Without any invasive procedures or medications, these people are able to be both pain and anxiety free. Even though there is a lot of competition in the field, Oncomfort is the only product running in five different languages, offering opportunities for global use.
"Beyond studies of distraction, we are also starting to see other examples of how virtual reality could be used, and even incorporated into cognitive behavioral approaches to chronic pain management," according to CNN. "For example, virtual games have been used as a means of delivering exposure-based behavioral treatments for pain, in which a patient is placed in different virtual situations that they might otherwise avoid."
Starting a company is not easy work, especially one so heavily involved with both scientific and psychological research. Jooris says that you have to be part human and part octopus for such a task. You must have arms everywhere--you need to be able to handle finances, go through legal contracts, find voices, take part of competitions, and so much more because you want to be able to grow your company; and that is exactly what Jooris is doing.
Jooris and Kim are hoping that within six more months, the company and product will be more widely distributed throughout multiple countries and more well known. Oncomfort isn't only limited to oncology patients, either. The goal is to have it available for anyone who needs it, whether it be through other medical procedures or even dealing with regular stress.
And her final advice for everybody? Stay motivated. Choose your battles, and know your priorities--the rest will come afterwards.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.