The rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a dangerous worldwide phenomenon primarily driven by overuse and misuse of these medications.1 Antibiotic-resistant infections account for an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States annually.2 In 2011, US clinicians prescribed 262.5 million outpatient courses of antibiotics, one-fourth of which were prescribed by family physicians.3

Many clinicians attribute inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions to patient pressure and the desire for customer satisfaction.4 But numerous studies have shown that even patients who expect antibiotics are willing to forego them if clinicians explain why antibiotics are not needed, provide positive treatment recommendations, suggest contingency plans, and engage in shared decision-making.5-7 Educating clinicians in the art of communication is essential for conducting effective conversations with patients. In fact, improving patient/clinician communication has been shown to reduce antibiotic prescriptions.8-10

To meet this educational need, Conversations for Health, an innovative simulation created by Kognito and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, offers clinicians the ability to engage in role-play conversations about antibiotics with virtual patients as a way to build competency to effectively lead them in real-life.

MPR interviewed Ron Goldman, Co-Founder and CEO of Kognito to understand more about this innovative educational tool.

What is Conversations for Health?

Conversations for Health is a series of interactive simulations designed to help improve clinician–patient communication. Kognito works in the field of interactive online simulations, with a goal of preparing individuals to lead conversations in real life that can improve emotional, social, and physical health. Our goal is to improve health-related conversations between healthcare professionals, patients, teachers, students, parents, and caregivers. We know that these conversations, when managed well, have tremendous ability and power to improve health outcomes by improving patient engagement, improving patients’ comfort in sharing their concerns, improving the patient’s understanding, and improving adherence to the recommended treatment plan. Our philosophy is that no one learns to ride a bike by watching someone else ride a bike. You need to personally learn what works and what does not work. This is what we do in our simulations. We allow the clinician to have a conversation with a virtual human being, and see what is and is not effective.