Kognito uses its virtual human technologies and its science-driven approach to create simulations of real conversations

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Lois Drapin, longtime consultant and executive—now acting as SVP, New Health markets at Kognito—I had the chance to speak with Ron Goldman at the 2014 Health 2.0. Ron is the CEO and Co-Founder of Kognito, an interesting company founded in 2003 that focuses on conversations about health.

[Here’s a link to the video.]

Ron has spent the last decade building virtual human technologies, applying principles of neuroscience, social cognition, learning theory and game mechanics to understand and impact how we can drive health behavior change in ourselves and others.

The biggest challenge in healthcare now is behavior change. When you think about this, conversations about health and wellness are happening everywhere—online and at our work, in our homes with our families, at the pharmacy, at the doctor’s office and hospital.

We talk about health when we purchase healthcare, download a health app, when we are in a dialogue with our physician or just make dinner for our families. Are we really paying enough attention to these conversations? Can we do better at them? Can healthcare professions learn empathy? Can patients have the confidence to ask the right questions? How can caregivers and others around us help build the motivation to change?


Can virtual humans help change behavior?

Kognito virtual humansKognito uses its virtual human technologies and its science-driven approach to create simulations of real conversations. A user then takes on the role of a virtual human and actually role-plays or practices challenging conversations. Kognito’s “learning experiences” are personalized and show trust or progress meters, or even a virtual coach when you seem to need it.

As Goldman says,

“Building someone’s motivation is not very easy and there is no one size fits all. Each one of us has different barriers to motivation, different reasons for doing something.”

Each interaction in Kognito’s conversations help users build cognitive, communication and social-emotional skills that are designed to drive behavior change while the user takes on the role of a parent, caregiver, healthcare professional such as a nurse or physician, a patient, or a student and teacher.


Research and collaborations

Kognito has published research that shows how they were able to double referrals to the VA with veterans who had been diagnosed with PTSD but had never sought help. They did this by building Family of Heroes, an avatar-based resiliency and PTSD training simulation, with the Veterans Affairs Network of New York that helps families learn how to bring out the self-help seeking behavior in their loved ones.

Change Talk, developed in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatricians, helps professionals use motivational interviewing techniques to take on the behavior change needed in a parent and young adolescent patient regarding childhood obesity. Kognito has taken on many challenging health and social issue topics such as underage drinking and PTSD and resilience for veterans and families (discussed here), childhood obesity, chronic disease, childhood development, mental health and even LBGTQ bullying.

They must be onto something. Kudos to Kognito for having the only simulations—three of them—listed in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.



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