Electronic Medical Records in a Virtual Hospital: Interview!

The Ann Myers Medical Center is a hospital in Second Life, the virtual world where we organize medical exercises and simulations. John Norris is more than interested in medical informatics and the opportunities provided by Second Life in medical education. That’s all you should know before reading the next interview with John Norris about his recent experiments to implement electronic medical records into the virtual hospital.

  • You’ve recently had some kind of experiment in Second Life in the Ann Myers Medical Center. What did you exactly do?

Ann Myers Medical Center is a well done simulation of a hospital. I wanted to try to bring to it the possibility of using electronic medical records and clinical information systems within the simulation. The ability to practice with the software in a simulated environment would go a long way in understanding, and learning how it works.

The technique I used to bring the software to the simulation environment has been used by others in different areas, and is not very sophisticated, but opens up the idea for exploration. Basically, I used the SL client help window to access a website with an EMR/CIS application.

In the SL client go to the toolbar’s drop down “Help” then “In-World Help”. One can put ULRs into the search window and that webpage will be displayed within the help window. In this way, I accessed the open source medical software site ClearHealth and used their demo.

I did not create an object with SL. Other avatars cannot look over my shoulder to see what is happening. (Although they could have their own logins to the medical application and access the medical data that way.)


  • Why do you think it could be useful in the medical simulations done in Second Life?

I think it can give a more fuller experience to medical simulations, incorporating medical records, scheduling, and the like while in SL.

  • What do we need to use this tool?

The SL Client allows one in a round about way, to access the web. You could do the same with a separate web browser.

More importantly you need access to medical software. I recommend Open Source Medical software as it is much easier to access. Some sites have full demos online, like ClearHealth. Other sites provide Live CD’s to download, boot up from, and set up locally. One does not have to worry about licenses, nor accessing servers with real medical data within them.

For a list of Open Source software try Wikipedia.

  • What are your future plans? Do you plan to take part in a medical exercise in the AMMC and implement it into the process?

The folks at AMMC have expressed interest in it. I have not been involved in their projects directly, so I do not know if this easily works into their current activities. I would be more than happy to help them set this up, but it is pretty simple once you give it a try. I’d love to know if folks do use it, and it would be fun to see it during a simulation.

As a proof of concept, what I did is pretty much done. I might try some different applications to see how they might look, it would be neat to access a PACS. Once/if there is HTML on a prim, or other easy ways to access the web in-world, then that will open up a lot more possibilities.

My current SL project is writing up a SL notecard to help introduce medical professionals to the variety of healthcare interests within Second Life. I will continue traveling Second Life as a healthcare tourist, checking out the latest and visiting friends.


A patient’s record

You can find even more screenshots taken by John Norris on Flickr.

It would be much easier for us to present medical cases with these tools. I’ll keep you updated about his future projects because his enthusiasm should be an example for all of us.

Further reading: