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    Posted August 4, 2008 by
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    Stories from Second Life

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    The Hospital of the Future is Here Today in Second Life


    Second Life is home to the Palomar West Hospital, the "Hospital of the Future". The real Palomar West Medical Campus in San Diego is currently being built and is set to open in 2011. The Second Life version offers the opportunity for visitors to tour the hospital, learn all about the technology being used as well as the ideas and goals behind the type of construction being done. Not only can you tour the hospital but it is actually possible to undergo a medical procedure, so I recently had my virtual gall bladder removed.


    I first had to pick up an RFID bracelet which must be worn throughout the whole hospital stay. Then on entering the hospital I was greeted by a receptionist appearing via Cisco TelePresence. Cisco is providing all the computer technology ("Connected Hospital technologies") being used by the hospital. According to the Cisco press release the Cisco Telepresence is "a new technology that uses high-definition video and spatial audio to create unique "in person" experiences via the network." This is used throughout the hospital - in public areas, patient rooms, operating rooms and even the outdoor decks.



    After the receptionist finished explaining about the hospital and what I was to expect, I walked over to the bank of elevators and touched one. The RFID bracelet told the elevator to which floor I should be sent and before I knew it I was in my hospital room, meeting with my surgeon, Dr. Hayes, also via Cisco TelePresence. I then had a scan right in my room. All the patient rooms in the hospital are single occupancy, "same handed" and "acuity adaptable". "Same handed" means that each hospital room is a clone of each other, with each component of each room in exactly the same place. In most hospitals the patient rooms are mirror images, because two rooms can then share utilities such as electrical circuits, plumbing, etc. in a common wall. This is cheaper to construct, but the designers of Palomar West have decided instead to go for the more expensive "same handed" approach to increase efficiency and reduce opportunity for error. The rooms are also "acuity adaptable", meaning that for any change in patient status the room can be adapted by bringing in needed equipment; there is no need to transport the patient to other units in the hospital. Diagnostic testing can also take place in the room, the scan I had being an example of how this works.



    I was told I needed to have my gall bladder removed, so I was sent off to the operating room. Dr. Hayes was not actually there in person, but again by TelePresence, as were a gall bladder expert and his students in Brazil. The operation was done by a surgical robot under Dr. Hayes' guidance, using the information gathered from my scan and also in my medical history. All of this information was stored in my digital file and was accessible and updatable from anywhere in the hospital. This network is called the "Cisco Medical Grade Network". The Cisco Medical Grade Network combines all the different systems in the hospital - IT, clinical, building (ventilation, lighting, etc).



    Next thing I knew I was sitting up in bed in my hospital room. I was informed of all the options my room offered, such as adjusting the lighting, using the video phone to contact my friends and relatives, surf the net, order food, or call the doctors or nurses if I needed to. There is a nursing station outside each patient room, and the video phone is used for communication instead of the bell-ringing or overhead speaker system routinely found in hospitals. The designers of Palomar West decided to use the video phone system in order to provide a calmer and quieter atmosphere for everyone in the hospital.



    When I left the hospital I exited via the green roof deck, where the receptionist explained more about the design of the hospital, this time emphasizing the impact the hospital would, or would not in this case, have on the surrounding environment. Throughout my visit the receptionist and Dr. Hayes both stressed that the design innovations were focused on providing excellent medical care and comfort for the patient, hence the use of TelePresence, the ability to alter certain aspects of the room, such as lighting, the RFID bracelet and the design of the outdoor spaces and views from inside the hospital, to provide serenity and a connection with nature.



    It was an interesting experience and it will be fascinating to see how the rl hospital compares. Not only can people in the area of the rl hospital visit it and get an idea of how the hospital will look and function in their own community, but it is also a chance for designers to have an idea as to how the hospital will function, perhaps tweaking their design plans, and for other hospital designers to learn about how Palomar West Medical Campus in San Diego has decided to respond to the needs of a hospital using technology available today.

    Palomar West Hospital (33, 127, 34)


    1. Palomar West Hospital

    2. Reception area

    3. Undergoing a scan in my room

    4. Operation

    5. Recovery in my room; consulting with the doctor


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