NORC and Kognito Prepare Nurses, Doctors, and Social Workers to Confront COVID-19 Behavioral Health Crisis

NORC at the University of Chicago, the leading non-profit organization supporting behavioral health training, evaluation, and implementation, and Kognito, a leader in immersive, evidence-based virtual human simulation, are helping to prepare future and current nurses, physicians, and social workers to confront the COVID-19 behavioral health crisis.
As of mid-July, more than half of U.S. adults reported that their mental health had been negatively impacted by the coronavirus, with 12% reporting increases in alcohol consumption or other substance use. Nurses, physicians, and social workers play a critical role in behavioral health screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT)—an evidence-based practice in the prevention and care of behavioral health issues. NORC and Kognito have worked with hundreds of health professions schools to train their students to use SBIRT with a variety of populations. They are now leveraging that expertise to train health professionals to use SBIRT to address COVID-related mental health issues.

“Especially during COVID-19, there’s an increased need for schools to provide effective virtual training. We’re pleased to collaborate with Kognito to address such an important issue and help expand the use of substance use assessment and early intervention into routine healthcare nationwide,” says Dr. Tracy McPherson, Senior Research Scientist for NORC.

NORC’s thought leadership and expertise in SBIRT training, implementation, and evaluation, combined with Kognito’s evidence-based behavioral health simulations, will provide schools of health professions with access to the superior content and wrap-around support they need to successfully implement SBIRT training into their curriculum. The partnership will also offer its solutions to health systems to support SBIRT training for practicing professionals.

Kognito simulations allow learners to lead conversations with AI-powered virtual patients to build clinical communication skills such as motivational interviewing—an evidence-based method for driving sustained behavior change. Dozens of health professions schools use Kognito virtual simulations to provide students with clinical practice hours.

“Simulations with virtual patients are a proven method to provide the hands-on practice and personalized feedback required to build patient-engagement and communication skills of health professionals,” says Ron Goldman, Co-Founder and Chief Simulation Strategist at Kognito. “We are honored to partner with NORC and combine the power of Kognito simulations with NORC’s expertise in training, evaluation, and implementation to support today’s schools in preparing the future healthcare workforce to confront the behavioral health crisis.”

Visit the partnership page to learn more.

About NORC at the University of Chicago:

NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, nonpartisan research institution. We deliver reliable data, rigorous analysis, and trustworthy insights that guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, we have conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. NORC has been a pioneer in training care providers to use SBIRT to treat a variety of patient populations, including adolescents and members of the military. Learn more at

About Kognito:

Founded in 2003, Kognito is a leader in designing immersive practice experiences that develop and assess the competencies of users in transforming challenging health conversations into opportunities to drive meaningful and sustainable changes in attitude, self-efficacy, and behavior. Kognito’s award-winning online and mobile experiences use emotionally responsive virtual humans to simulate real-life conversations within a risk-free and adaptive environment that provides personalized feedback and in-depth analytics. Kognito uses a science-driven, research-proven approach and currently has more than 450 clients in education, government, and healthcare settings. The company has been recognized for its evidence-based programs and is the only company with digital simulations listed in the National-Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). Learn more and access a demo at

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