An In-Depth Look at Our Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Patient Simulation

At Kognito, we are always excited to apply our conversation platform technology to new topics that change lives. Our new simulation Talk to Someone: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer builds on our flagship technology, yet represents a pivot in our approach to behavior change with virtual humans: patient education.

What is Triple-Negative Breast Cancer?

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a type of breast cancer that does not have receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer. This means that treatment can be difficult compared to hormonal therapy that is effective for other types of breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer patients face unique challenges in understanding their diagnosis and making decisions about treatment. For example, chemotherapy treatment does not guarantee long-term survival but significantly reduces patients’ risk of cancer recurrence. Therefore, it is almost always part of the recommended treatment plan for triple-negative breast cancer. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), our collaborators on this simulation, identified this type of cancer as particularly challenging when it comes to health literacy and patient decisionmaking. After a diagnosis patients are typically under a tremendous amount of stress. Stress makes it harder to comprehend information that is already difficult to understand. Patients may be uncomfortable asking questions, may not know what to ask, or may think of something outside the doctor’s office. We consider these major barriers to optimizing treatment decisions, quality of life during treatment, and ultimately health outcomes.


Why an Interactive Simulation for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Patients?

Talk to Someone: Triple Negative Breast Cancer, released last year, is built on Kognito’s foundation of technology, animation, and instructional design that crafts unique, interactive learning experiences. Similar to other Kognito simulations, Talk to Someone involves dialogue with a virtual human where the user chooses from a menu of conversation options. However, this simulation represents some exciting new advancements:

  • Users engage directly with one virtual coach throughout the entire simulation, rather than experiencing multiple conversations and scenarios
  • The primary focus is on user knowledge and their own experience, vs. tasked with building trust with another virtual human

Why did we try a different learning approach for this simulation? Besides answering common questions about diagnosis and treatment options, the primary goal of Talk to Someone is patient activation – that involves actively learning skills and behaviors that help patients better manage their condition. Patient activation also allows for an active partnership with their provider for shared decisionmaking.

Talk to Somone goes beyond informational learning like you would find from reading a blog or watching a video. It was designed for cancer patients to feel more hopeful about their chances of survival after treatment, and to increase motivation to pursue chemotherapy.


The Importance of a Virtual Coach

In Talk to Someone, patients meet their virtual coach Linda, who herself is a triple-negative breast cancer survivor. Interacting one-on-one with Linda feels like a real private discussion. Users can go at their own pace and ask her questions on demand. Linda serves as a health literacy resource who not only presents information about chemotherapy, but reinforces learning through patient activation. Patients can identify the questions about cancer that are most important to them.

As a survivor, Linda is an approachable, safe ally – a very intentional decision. To create Linda, we talked with subject matter experts – cancer survivors like Delphyne Taylor and renowned cancer experts – to inform Linda’s experience and information sharing. Linda provides reassurance since she shares her own survivor story. Linda focuses on sensitive topics like losing hair, family relationships, and survivorship. Patients can safely ask Linda questions that they find too confusing or too personal to ask their doctor or nurse.


How to Access

This simulation is publicly available for use on a web browser or as a mobile app – access it here. If someone you know has a recent triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis, please spread the word about this simulation.

For oncologists, we suggest that you “prescribe” the simulation to newly diagnosed patients. Oncologists can pre-download the simulation onto an iPad for use in the doctor’s office.

Last but not least, we are proud that Talk to Someone was named one of the most innovative products of 2018 in the healthcare industry.

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