A recent American Medical Association (AMA) survey found that 85 percent of those doctors surveyed felt that digital health solutions improve patient care. About 75 percent already use or plan to use digital technology for patient engagement. Physicians do have concerns, however, including the time spent in patient engagement and reimbursement for that time.

Kognito is a New York City-based firm that develops research-backed role playing simulations. Virtual humans train professionals in various fields to have effective conversations with patients and clients.  The goal of the training is that physicians will learn skills, behaviors, and attitudes that result in conversations that yield the most accurate information about patients’ problems, complaints, or conditions in a timely manner while still helping the patients feel they were heard.

The Kognito interactive simulations include two or more avatars on the screen, including a patient and a physician. The person taking the training selects from a menu of questions and responses. During the conversation, the student learns to observe not only what the patient says, but also nonverbal communication including gestures, facial expressions, and voice tone. An off-screen “coach” makes suggestions if necessary and if the “doctor” is really off track, a clickable thought-bubble next to the patient’s head displays and if clicked gives insight to the patient’s thoughts and feelings. At the end of each training session, the “coach” reports the total time of the conversation in relation to a goal time. In addition, a performance dashboard shows the professional’s overall score on the exercise as well as the scores by peers. Style and engagement are also scored, again with comparison peer scores.

As a result of empirical studies of the impact of Kognito simulations on learner’s behavior, performance, attitudes, and knowledge, three of the simulations now are listed in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). “For a virtual human to be ‘effective’ it must combine the correct appearance/level of realism, life-like body language, and a voice that generates the correct level of authenticity and engagement,” wrote Kognito co-founder and CEO, Ron Goldman in a blog post. “In addition, they need to act and respond like a real person would which requires for them to have memory, emotions, and a personality.”

The desired results of the Kognito training simulations for physicians include improved engagement skills, better use of time, and, by improving their ability to discern the correct problems and treatment plans, increased success ratings and reimbursement rates.