CDC's Virtual Tool Reduces Infection Risk for Cancer Patients

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation recently announced the launch of a virtual tool designed to help cancer patients reduce their infection risk.

The educational tool uses virtual human technology to strengthen patient-provider conversations about a chemotherapy side effect that may increase infection risk. Known as neutropenia, it is a decrease in the number of white blood cells — the body's main defense against infection. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells as well as white blood cells.

The new tool, called TINA, is a free mobile app available for Apple and Android devices. It can also be accessed via web browser. TINA features two role-play conversations in which providers and patients interact with fully articulated and emotionally responsive virtual humans.

The conversations available are:

  • Training for Infection and Neutropenia Awareness (TINA) — Offers providers a training environment to practice conversations with cancer patients about neutropenia.

  • Talking about Infection and Neutropenia Awareness (TINA) — A virtual provider answers patient questions about infection risk how they can protect themselves. 

"People dealing with a cancer diagnosis are incredibly overwhelmed with information, yet learning about the steps they can take to lower their risk of infection during chemotherapy is critical," said Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH, director of CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, in a news release. "TINA is the first-ever tool developed to engage both patients and providers in an educational and informative way. Our hope is that TINA can help facilitate more effective communication about this serious side effect of chemotherapy."