Shadow Health, an educational technology startup out of the University of Florida (UF), is bridging the “academic to practice skills” gap in health care by providing rich, interactive, digital learning environments for nursing and allied health education programs.
The company’s digital patient technology, patented in 2018, came from a team of world-class thinkers and researchers in human-centered computing at UF that included co-founders Aaron Kotranza and Benjamin Lok. Their natural language processor-based technology intrigued David Massias, co-founder and CEO of Shadow Health, who had been looking at the challenges nursing students had in transitioning from school to a clinical practice setting.
“Given the size of the market and the fact that the nursing profession had identified a major need that we thought we could meet with this technology, we were off to the races, and Shadow Health was born,” Massias said.
The technology leverages its natural language processing algorithm to address communication gaps in the availability, presentation and standardization of educational experiences for health care professionals.
“We help train students to ask that one more critical question, display empathy and educate the patient at the right time,” Lok said. “This all began when we started the research into the simple question of ‘Can talking to a virtual human help you get better at talking with real humans?’ back in 2004.”
“While the impact of the scholarly work has been significant,” Lok continued, “the greatest way for the ideas and technology to impact everyone has been realized through Shadow Health commercializing the idea, innovating the concept and integrating this work into the curriculum of many thousands of students yearly.”