Emotionally Responsive Virtual Coach Helps Address Patient Concerns in New Simulation

Kognito, a health simulation company, is applying its simulation technology to patient education, to address a gap in patient knowledge.

Educating patients regarding their health conditions can be challenging in today’s high-pressure medical environment. Providers need skills, time, and training to effectively provide patients with information in an accessible form that they can absorb.1 Some studies have suggested that between 40% and 60% of patients are unable to correctly report what their physicians expected of them, even an hour after they were provided with the information, and that 60% of patients interviewed immediately after visiting their providers misunderstood the directions they received regarding prescribed medications.2

Many healthcare professionals educate their patients through giving them printouts, flyers, or brochures about their condition. But these educational methods are limited by several factors, including language and cultural barriers or reluctance to obtain information through printed formats.3 Moreover, many patients need more human interaction, ongoing explanation, and a sense of support. Some clinicians offer patients suggestions of reliable websites that can provide more information. However, not all patients want to use the Internet to read articles or explanations of diseases.4

To address this gap, Kognito, a health simulation company, is applying its simulation technology to patient education. MPR interviewed Ron Goldman, Co-Founder and CEO of Kognito to learn more about their unique approach. In 2017, we interviewed Mr Goldman regarding the use of this virtual technology to educate healthcare providers in how to best communicate with patients.

Ron Goldman, Kognito
Ron Goldman, Kognito

What is Kognito?

Kognito is a health simulation company has been around for about 10 years and has concentrated on harnessing the power of conversations with virtual humans to improve health. Our view is that conversations have the power to transform how people think and act, to enhance empathy, and to change lives.

So what we offer is a blend that puts together the science of learning, the art of conversation, and the power of gaming technology. At this point, over a million healthcare providers, educators, and students across 500 organizations have used Kognito simulations to improve social, emotional, and physical health.

How have your offerings changed over time?

We began by using these virtual humans to model simulated conversations between clinicians and patients to help healthcare professionals in navigating conversations. We began with education about antibiotic use. But since then, we have built many simulations involving real-life type conversations regarding substance use, chronic disease, and medication adherence. Research has demonstrated that they have helped not only in skill-building but in changing the behavior of providers and their patients in measurable ways.

What type of research supports this approach?

Kognito is the only company with health simulations listed in the US Department of Health and Human Services National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). The evidence underlying the effectiveness of these simulations can be found on the Company’s website.

You say you “began” with simulations to educate healthcare providers about communication. How have you expanded your offerings since then?

In 2017, we partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) to apply our simulation technology to patient education challenges in oncology. This approach is direct-to-patient and provides a patient with a virtual “coach.” On his or her own time, the patient engages in interactive conversations with the coach via an app that can be downloaded to a phone. The virtual coach provides information about the condition and helps the patient have the needed information to make the right treatment decision for them. The patient can also go online to access the coach and there are links to handouts that the CDC created, which can be downloaded. The app is accessible for free.

I should note that the app collects no identifiable data on the patient and thus fully respects the patient’s privacy.

What does this collaboration focus on?

This article originally appeared on MPR