Case Study

Hospital Takes Its Grand Opening to Second Life

In partnership with Cisco Systems, Palomar Pomerado Health in San Diego, California, was able to hold a grand opening three years before it started operations by creating a simulated version of the real-life Palomar West Medical Campus using Second Life. The health system claimed that the facility was the first US hospital to be unveiled in this manner.
By entering Second Life, virtual visitors could tour the facility and see some of the amenities of the $810 million, publicly financed hospital. Under the direction of Palomar Pomerado’s chief innovation officer, the facility was designed from the ground up to be integrated with leading-edge technology, including medical technology. Its Second Life presence offered patients and the healthcare community a chance to explore these innovations in the virtual world years before the physical facility opened.
Virtual visitors also helped Palomar Pomerado test some of its ideas regarding the use of leading-edge technology at the new facility and the opportunities futuristic concepts present for the healthcare industry at large. The system even used Second Life to test some technology proposed for deployment in Palomar West, such as radio frequency identification (RFID). Virtual patients taking the tour could wear RFID-enabled bracelets that not only tracked them but also guided them to areas of the facility in which their services or treatments were scheduled to take place. Thus, a virtual patient slated for day surgery could automatically have the hospital elevator land on the correct floor, according to the information programmed into the RFID bracelet. The idea behind the testing was that if the technology worked in a virtual setting, it could be adopted in the real world. Some of the concepts tested were not yet considered feasible in today’s environment, but they were explored in advance.
Looking ahead, Palomar Pomerado planned to use Second Life to host industry events and meetings with healthcare leaders, policymakers, and others to discuss a variety of topics, including clinical and operational issues as well as the design and architecture of technology that could apply to the physical Palomar West setting.

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1. Why have hospitals and other healthcare organizations been slow to adopt contemporary technology for nonmedical purposes?

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of opening up development plans to the public and encouraging their feedback?

3. By using Second Life technology for the hospital’s virtual grand opening, was Palomar Pomerado in danger of creating unrealistic expectations among future customers?

4. How do you think Palomar Pomerado’s cutting-edge approach is likely to be perceived by the traditional healthcare community?

5. How likely are other healthcare organizations to adopt this approach in presenting themselves to the public?

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