Standardized Patient Simulation Scenarios Using Virtual Humans

These simulations are used to train health professions students and practicing providers, including physicians, NPs, nurses, PAs, NAs, social workers, and pharmacists.

In addition to providing an engaging learning experience, Kognito’s standardized patient simulation scenarios are CNE/CME accredited and can be used to address multiple educational needs: to prepare students for live standardized patients, remediate learners who need additional training and practice in interpersonal communication skills, and expand standardized patient programs where resources or funding are limited. Kognito’s complete portfolio of simulations is accessible from any device, on-demand, and the simulation platform integrates with any LMS to provide educators and administrators with 24/7 access to student performance reporting.

Expanding the Reach of Traditional Standardized Patient Programs

A State-of-the-Art Learning Experience, Every Time

Kognito delivers realistic scenarios and an immersive learning experience to every user. Collaborating with faculty experts across clinical and educational disciplines, each simulation is built on a foundation of evidence-based communication techniques and the latest research in medical science. Kognito augments faculty expertise with first-person accounts from practicing clinicians and real patients to build a comprehensive model of real-life provider-patient interactions. The emphasis on authenticity throughout development yields a simulation experience that exposes users to effective and ineffective tactics and fuels a learning by doing approach. Learners experience the impact of common pitfalls on critical healthcare discussions and formulate strategies for how best to navigate challenging patient conversations.

“Kognito simulations are very realistic…you learn something that you can apply every day in your practice”
-Adina Kalet, MD, MPH, DIrector, Research on Medical Education Outcomes, NYU School of Medicine

The Power of Virtual Humans

In Kognito’s simulations, learners interact with an emotionally responsive virtual human to practice empathy, curiosity, and openness to patient experiences. Each virtual human has a unique persona that reacts to users’ decisions through a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication that embodies their specific personality, attitude, and health condition. The learner must engage each unique patient persona while exploring the sociocultural factors critical to the patient’s health, and applying collaborative care and motivational interviewing techniques to achieve the objectives of the patient visit.


Kognito’s evidenced-based approach to using virtual humans creates a safe space where users can experiment and learn from mistakes before engaging real patients. Research suggests that users are more open to receiving feedback from a synthetic agent than from a human being and feel less judged leading to improvements in learning, retention, and engagement.1,2,3

Proven Results

Every Kognito simulation is supported with comprehensive data capture infrastructure, and includes survey data collection to generate insight into changes in users’ skills, knowledge, and behavior. Kognito’s Research and Analytics teams have leveraged the data platform to support extensive study of Kognito simulations, which has resulted in multiple publications validating the efficacy of the standardized patient simulation scenarios. Kognito also provides educators and program administrators with on-demand access to administrative reports that track and evaluate their students’ performance.


Data from over 75,000 healthcare providers who have engaged with a Kognito simulation show:


Kognito is the only company with health simulations listed in HHS/SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).

Standardized Patient Simulation Scenarios

Kognito’s simulation catalog includes dozens of role-play conversation scenarios on critical healthcare topics:

  • Chronic Disease
  • Mental Health
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Opioids
  • Patient Engagement
  • Substance Use
  • Vaccine Hesitancy
  • Oncology

The catalog continues to grow with additional conversations planned for release throughout 2019 covering an array of topics:

  • End of Life
  • Cross-Team Care Coordination
  • Pain Management

Kognito’s team of 40+ instructional game designers, writers, and learning experts are also available to partner in building simulations tailored to your specific needs. The following selected examples present an overview of two standardized patient simulation scenarios that are being used to train thousands of providers.


At-Risk in Primary Care

Kognito is at the forefront of efforts to integrate mental health services in the primary care setting, with several simulations used to train primary care providers in mental and behavioral health screening and brief intervention. The At-Risk in Primary Care simulation suite trains providers on evidence-based techniques to conduct screening and brief interventions for mental health and substance use, and provides hands-on practice applying motivational interviewing to improve patient outcomes.

  • NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) used Kognito’s At-Risk in Primary Care simulations to prepare New York City’s 7,000 primary care providers to screen and manage the treatment of patients with trauma-related mental health disorders.
  • State agencies in North Dakota and Wyoming have used the At-Risk in Primary Care simulations to train hundreds of providers, and thereby expand the reach of mental health services into rural areas that have traditionally lacked access to these services.
  • Shashank Joshi, MD of Stanford Medicine uses Kognito’s At-Risk in Primary Care: Adolescents simulation to train program fellows to provide adolescent psychiatric services in school districts throughout the Bay Area.
  • Accredited for 1.5 hours of Continuing Medical Education and Continuing Nursing Education credits.

A peer-reviewed longitudinal study with over 600 practitioners showed that:4

  • 36% report increased skill and confidence to screen patients using evidence-based tools
  • 38% report increased skill and confidence to discuss treatment options using motivational interviewing
  • 43% report increased skill and confidence to build patients’ motivation to adhere to the suggested treatment plans

3 months after completing the simulation:

  • 49% report an increase in the number of patients screened
  • 40% of practitioners report an increase in discussions with patients about substance use

Learn more about At-Risk in Primary Care and experience a demo here.


Primary Care Office Visit: Antibiotics

Primary Care Office Visit: Antibiotics is part of a suite of simulations developed with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and made available to the public for free to help improve patient-physician communication, collaborative care, and health outcomes around antibiotics. This interactive role-play simulation allows users to play either the health professional or the patient, and build the knowledge and skills necessary to lead real-life health conversation about the proper use of antibiotics.


An NYU pilot study examined the potential utility of two simulated conversations with virtual humans to promote effective communication and collaborative decision-making between healthcare providers and patients in order to improve health outcomes, including the over-prescribing of antibiotics.

Provider feedback based on the one-month follow-up survey:

  • 77% reported that the simulation had a positive impact on the way they communicate with patients
  • 65% indicated that it helped them have a conversation with patients about antibiotics
  • 94% said that they intend to further invite patients to ask questions and participate
  • 89% said they would recommend the simulation to other physicians
  • 100% said they would recommend it to medical students and residents

Providers also reported that the simulation was a much better learning tool than the standardized patient model, as they felt more comfortable and free to make decisions within the virtual space.

Patient feedback based on the one-month follow-up survey:

  • 79% of patients who saw their doctor after completing the simulation reported that it helped them in talking with their doctor
  • 87% said they would recommend it to their friends and family
  • 97% rated it as a very useful tool saying that it would help them to: be better prepared for a doctor’s appointment, increase assertiveness when communicating with their physician, create a treatment plan, and learn specific content about antibiotics

The PI of the study was Antoinette Schoenthaler, EdD, Assistant Professor of Population Health and Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Center for Healthful Behavior Change.

To experience the simulation, visit

Explore more articles from the Kognito blog: 

To request a demo or learn more about Kognito’s growing portfolio of standardized patient simulation scenarios, contact us at


1 Lowes, S., Hamilton, G., Hochstetler, V., & Paek, S. (2013). Teaching communication skills to medical students in a virtual world. Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (3).
2 Mori, M., MacDorman, K. F., & Kageki, N. (2012). The uncanny valley [from the field]. IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, 19(2), 98-100.
3 MacDorman, K. F., Green, R. D., Ho, C. C., & Koch, C. T. (2009). Too real for comfort? Uncanny responses to computer generated faces. Computers in human behavior, 25(3), 695-710.
Albright, Glenn, et al. Using Virtual Patient Simulations to Prepare Primary Health Care Professionals to Conduct Substance Use and Mental Health Screening and Brief Intervention. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. (2017)

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