Mental Health, Provider Communication Skills, Substance Use 05.15.2020

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Kognito Spotlight by NHA Allied Health – Can Virtual Humans Help Providers Achieve Better Patient Outcomes?

Learn how virtual humans can be leveraged to help change patient behavior in this new spotlight by the National Healthcareer Association.

A new spotlight by NHA Allied Health explores how virtual humans – and Kognito simulations in particular – can help patients change their attitudes and behaviors to improve health outcomes. Explore an excerpt from the article, which includes insights from Antoinette M. Schoenthaler, EdD, below, and read the full piece here.

Healthcare educators and employers providing continuing education often lean on the use of role-play with standardized patients to help current and future healthcare professionals develop skills like Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBRIT); motivational interviewing; and empathy. However, these sessions can require a great deal of time and resources, are difficult to standardize, and make some participants uncomfortable. Online simulation training is a solution growing in popularity because of its effectiveness, its ability to standardize, and its easy-to-access digital medium.

Antoinette M. Schoenthaler, EdD, is a behavioral scientist and an associate professor of public health and medicine at New York University (NYU). She has helped lead studies determining the effectiveness of simulation training in primary care settings. As someone who also leads in-person workshops, she says that one of the unique advantages to simulation training over a traditional, in-person role-play is the one-on-one feedback provided.

“Oftentimes for providers, we are offering two- to three-hour workshops, which can be good, but it really results in just gaining knowledge. It’s not really skill acquisition,” Schoenthaler says. “As a trainer, it’s very hard for me to give good, constructive feedback when I have 35 people in the room, because there’s only so much time I can dedicate to each person. [Online] simulation [training] provides a really good opportunity to get that one-on-one feedback.”

Hospitals, primary care offices, state and local agencies, and schools of health professions are implementing these trainings to help improve conversations that can positively impact a variety of patient outcomes (see chart below). Most of these simulations are used to train future and current healthcare professionals, but simulations can also be designed for patient education. For example, in a simulation developed in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, patients learn how to navigate conversations with their providers about topics such as antibiotics overuse. There is also an online simulation and mobile app funded by the CDC called “Talk to Someone.” In this app, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients can better understand their diagnosis and the advantages of chemotherapy by engaging with “Linda,” a virtual TNBC survivor.


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