Discover Magazine asks Can Training in Second Life Teach Doctors to Save Real Lives? While many in the tech world are looking at the ARRA Stimulus Bill’s money being spent on EMRs and giving the world the thousandth version of a medical records system it’s great to see some creative technologists are using their brains on simulations and training programs that could actually make better doctors, not just more efficient administrators. Here’s one of the main benefits:
Of course, arguably the most significant benefit of SL training is the cost. Real-life training facilities require thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars to build and maintain, not to mention travel expenses for students and faculty. For example, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., built a state-of-the-art training facility with rooms, dummies, equipment, and software. The price tag? Over $2.5 million. The sophisticated mannequins used by medical schools cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. But SL simulation rooms can be created for minimal costs, and accessed from anywhere in the world for the price of an Internet connection.
But it’s not all rosy — there hasn’t been enough evidence gathered yet, which the Discover article points out.
Critics have pointed out that there are plenty of unanswered questions about health-care education in SL, and that little empirical research has been done to see if it really works. For their part, schools with SL programs are slowly but surely gathering data on the virtual world’s effectiveness. At Imperial College London, David Taylor, director of virtual worlds and medical media in the Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology, has been doing his own research: “We tested [the virtual O.R.] in a controlled experiment on 40 first-year medical students prior to their first visit to a real O.R. We wanted to determine if [the SL program] gives them more confidence before their first exposure to the real thing. We’ve found it is just as effective as the training O.R. in the physical world.” Diener says that his surveys of medical students show that their emotional reactions to medical crises in SL are very similar to the ones they have to real-life simulations.