IBM Opens New 3D Virtual Healthcare Island on Second Life

Interactive environment displays IBM’s vision for consumer-driven healthcare

ORLANDO, FL – 24 Feb 2008: IBM (NYSE: IBM) debuted at HIMSS®08 its newest island in Second Life: IBM Virtual Healthcare Island.  The island is a unique, three-dimensional representation of the challenges facing today’s healthcare industry and the role information technology will play in transforming global healthcare-delivery to meet patient needs. 

The island supports the strategic healthcare vision that IBM released in October 2006, entitled, Healthcare 2015: Win-Win or Lose-Lose, A Portrait and a Path to Successful Transformation.  The paper paints a picture of a Healthcare Industry in crisis – of health systems in the United States and many other countries that will become unsustainable by the year 2015.  To avoid “lose-lose” scenarios in which global healthcare systems “hit the wall” and require immediate and forced restructuring, IBM calls for what it defines as a “win-win” option: new levels of accountability, tough decisions, hard work and focus on the consumer.

The IBM Virtual Healthcare Island is designed with a futuristic atmosphere and provides visitors with an interactive demonstration of IBM’s open-standards-based Health Information Exchange (HIE) architecture.  Working with project leads in the U.S., the island was designed and built by an all-IBM-India team.

Starting from the patient’s home, they create their own Personal Health Records (PHRs) in a secure and private environment and watch as it is incorporated into an array of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems that can be used at various medical facilities.  As they move from one island station to the next, they experience how the development of a totally integrated and interoperable longitudinal Electronic Health Record (EHR) is used within a highly secured network that allows access only by patient-authorized providers and family members.

Patient avatars arrive and are welcomed at the Central Park and then visit a Central Information Hub, where IBM’s view of the healthcare industry and the power of information technology to transform it are presented.  An amphitheater on the Hub’s second floor provides an area that can support virtual meetings, complete with a large video screen and accompanying slide presentation on IBM’s HIE architecture and the positive impact that this technology can have in the transformation of the Healthcare Industry.

Visitors can then walk, fly or use transporters to visit the various island stations:

  • The Patient’s Home:  In the secure environment of a private home, patient avatars can initiate a PHR and populate it with their personal health characteristics and clinical history, accessed and downloaded from physician EMR data.  They can also establish privacy and security preferences as well as health directives.  The ground floor demonstrates secure messaging with providers and activates the initial PHR.  Using a transporter to move upstairs, patients use home health devices to take weight, blood pressure and blood sugar readings in the privacy of a bedroom, further incorporating this information into the PHR, which is shown on presentation screens. 
  • The Laboratory: This stop offers laboratory and radiology suites to help avatars extend their understanding of the benefits of  HIE.  Here, patients can check in at a Patient Kiosk and have blood work and radiology tests performed. The use of EHRs – revealing only appropriate portions of the PHRs — shows how consumers can also benefit through cost and time savings.
  • The Clinic: Patient avatars transport or walk from the Lab to the Clinic, where a welcome from their primary-care physician awaits.  A combination of scripting and information screens supports simulation of a patient exam, after which an electronic prescription is generated, and the continued development of the EHR is explained on nearby screens. 
  • The Pharmacy: Here, avatars can check in at a Patient Kiosk that simulates the verifying of drug information.  They then receive their prescriptions and update their PHRs/EHRs with new medication data.  The HIE architecture demonstrates how use of PHR/EHR technology can prevent consumers from purchasing medications that are contra-indicated given the medicines they presently require, as well as alerting them about potential drug-to-drug interactions.  The PHR/EHR is again updated.
  • The Hospital: In this futuristic, three story structure, avatars arrive for a scheduled visit with a specialist.  Physicians’ offices, patient rooms and exam rooms are all simulated here. 
  • The Emergency Room: Avatars can chose to experience a virtual emergency by “touching” a specially scripted control.  This engages a medical episode and a ride on a fast gurney directly into the private and secure emergency treatment area, where a special screen is programmed to reveal the full incorporation of the PHR to ensure proper treatment.

“We are pleased to offer our IBM Virtual Health Island as a tool for our healthcare customers and our worldwide sales force.  The island allows each healthcare stakeholder to envision how the total system can be affected by intercession at each juncture of the healthcare delivery process,” said Dan Pelino, General Manager, IBM Global Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry.  “We believe that the use of our new virtual world provides an important, next-generation Internet-based resource to show how standards; business planning; the use of a secured, extensible and expandable architecture; HIE interoperability; and data use for healthcare analytics, quality, wellness and disease management are all helping to transform our industry. “

IBM’s Healthcare & Life Sciences (HCLS) Industry will continue to develop the new island in months to come.  The island can perform as a virtually “always on” demonstration tool for IBM’s sales personnel.  A video version of the island is also under production.

IBM believes in the significant promise of virtual-worlds technologies far beyond today’s usage: the next evolutionary phase of the Internet. IBM is helping clients and partners to conduct business inside virtual worlds and to connect the virtual world with the real world through a richer, more immersive Web environment. 

Second Life is a 3D online world created by Linden Lab, a company founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale, to create a revolutionary new form of shared 3D experience.  Last October, IBM and Linden Lab announced their intent to jointly develop new technologies and methodologies based on open standards that will help advance the future of 3D virtual worlds.