Friday, October 28, 2005

The next big thing in telemedicine: doctor visits in virtual worlds

The New York Times has an article in the travel section on vactions to virtual worlds (mirrorshades allowed):
A Virtual Holiday in the Virtual Sun - New York Times

...On FairChang Island, for instance, one of the 1,000-plus 'regions' of Second Life (each covering 16 virtual acres), a simple mouse-click allows members to purchase virtual sailboats that can be sailed around the waters of the virtual world. Prices start at less than a penny, and the money goes to the 'resident' who created the item. Payments are made using a virtual currency called 'Linden dollars' that can be bought and sold freely with real money on eBay and other sites.

In contrast to most virtual worlds, Linden Lab doesn't mind having its currency bought and sold, and even grants Second Life members ownership of the intellectual property rights to whatever they create in the world. But to create anything of permanence, members must 'own' a plot of virtual land (on which they must then pay monthly fees).

A robust economy has sprung up as a result, with one of the most profitable areas being the virtual real estate business. Large tracts of land can be 'purchased' at auction in Second Life, often for more than $100 an acre, then subdivided and sold at a profit.
So how long will it be before someone sets up a virtual doctor's office? A place to go and receive medical advice. How long before someone then sets up a legal office to adjudicate disputes? How long before the first subpoena is delivered to Second Life requesting the physician's realworld identity to initiate a lawsuit? How long before they realize the physician was a high school dropout? Or a very savvy cyberdoc who's identity can't be traced?

This is soo interesting.

Update 10/30: The answer to "how long" is not very. In a comment on this posting James reports:
... I went to a talk last year where John Lester from Mass General talked about the virtual support group he has running in the second life virtual world...
John isn't a physician, but clearly the game is afoot. Thanks James!

2 comments:

James said...

fyi, I went to a talk last year where John Lester from Mass General talked about the virtual support group he has running in the second life virtual world. I couldn't find his talk in a quick search, but see http://neuro-www.mgh.harvard.edu/me.html

John said...

Great comment! I updated my posting with your link.