Healthcare Social Business Case Study in Virtual Worlds

Dave Taylor, Programme Lead, Imperial College London’s Medical Media and Design Laboratory

Healthcare Social Business Case Study in Virtual Worlds: Dave TaylorDave Taylor is an expert in virtual worlds, and he discussed some of the social networking aspects of engaging people in Second Life and how to get support for these projects. He is a founder of SciLands in Second Life, a virtual collaborative space inhabited by such esteemed organizations as NASA, National Institutes of Health, Caltech, Princeton Institute of Advanced Research, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Imperial College London. What do they know that you don’t?

Read on for a case study Dave presented on my panel at the Social Networking Conference London 2009, Enterprise Social Networking for Innovation: Case Studies, Approaches and Tools.

Case Study

These global organizations have highly educated experts who need to collaborate with each other globally, and Second Life is a platform that enables them to do it at a fraction of the cost. Attending conferences and in-person meetings is very expensive in terms of time and money, so these organizations have been committed to trying to use it to increase collaboration, and they have seen significant success.

Healthcare Social Business Case Study in Virtual Worlds: Imperial College LondonSecond Life enriches collaboration because it increases engagement and the sense of “being there.”

  • The SciLands offer each organization a sense of proximity to the others; it is a “local” community, a virtual science park. Because your avatar navigates within a space, and space is a key construct in connecting with others (as it is in the real world), this adds to the sense of onsite presence.
  • Experts collaborate in offices and conferences, they share powerpoints and ask questions, just as in the real world.
  • Patients with conditions like Alzheimer’s, Alcoholism, ADD/ADHD, Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder and breast cancer have focus groups in which they discuss their issues because Second Life enables them to share in unique ways. (Although most people are bonded to their avatars, for many it is easier to share personal information in Second Life than face to face.)
  • Second Life publishes case studies with quantitative results by companies like IBM, Intel and Cigna in which they have saved millions of dollars and increased collaboration.

Getting Support for Social Network Initiatives

  • Dave also admitted that it was difficult to sell social networking and virtual world initiatives to upper management because they are often unfamiliar with the business proposition.
  • Therefore, the approach Imperial College and other organizations with which he’s been affiliated is to find and engage enthusiasts who begin participating on their own time. Virtual worlds are, well, virtual, so it’s important to show executives how they work; it’s virtually ,^) impossible to explain using words.
  • He echoed Michel’s assertion that it rarely works to try to rely on a numbers approach to convince people to pursue these projects.
  • Although most of Dave’s remarks and examples focused on Second Life, he pointed out that there were other serious enterprise virtual worlds like Teleplace/Qwaq, Wonderland, Protosphere, and Olive.

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