Applications and Tools, Education in Virtual Worlds, Second Life

Healthcare Logistics Tackled in Second Life

While surgery may not (yet) be a function of Second Life, many of the logistical challenges of healthcare - operations including networks, database management, and patient information systems - may be corrected and improved upon by using Second Life as a test site.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas are delving into Second Life to see if these logistical inefficiencies can be improved upon in a virtual world. Starting with virtual models, the researchers hope to glean real world insights into how to decrease some of the massive cost overruns in the US healthcare system.

The group posted the following demo video:

“What we’re doing is exploring virtual worlds and ubiquitous computing,” said Craig Thompson, a professor of computer science and computer engineering, “as a model for efficient operations. The ultimate goal is to move beyond modeling, so that these systems may actually be used as tools in real hospitals, real pharmacies and clinics and other care facilities.”

The researcher have created a very detailed virtual hospital in Second Life, including avatars that, once students discovered were hollow, were filled with virtual organs. By relying heavily on RFID tags (which work like bar codes, but identify things individually), the hospital model is able to simulate the supply chain of a real hospital and identify inefficiences. The fact that everything is connected, or ‘alive,’ is key to the operation.

“In the ‘everything is alive’ vision, objects talk to each other,” Thompson said. “Our virtual objects do this, and, increasingly, so can wirelessly connected real-world objects. So it’s time to generate a rich collection of vignettes, or workflows, that exercise this capability to understand it better. For example, we’ll work on a situation in which a blood-pressure machine interacts intelligently with an IV drip so that the latter can adjust appropriately based on information received from the former. All of this can happen without fallible humans manually controlling both machines.”

More can be read about the University of Arkansas’ research activities on their Web site at

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