Monday, February 18, 2008

Giving Health Care Second Life

PPH to Showcase Hospital of the Future in a Virtual World - New Chief Technology Officer Giving Health Care Second Life By JAIMY LEE San Diego Business Journal Staff
‘We want to be breaking new ground,’ says Orlando Portale, Palomar Pomerado Health’s chief technology and innovation officer. ‘We want to be breaking new ground,’ says Orlando Portale, Palomar Pomerado Health’s chief technology and innovation officer.
For the last few months, 10 Web developers have worked to re-create Palomar Pomerado Health’s hospital of the future in Second Life, the 3-D online world that hosts millions of residents. In the past year, companies like Coca-Cola Co., Reuters and Wells Fargo & Co. have generated headlines for opening and closing campaigns, bureaus and offices in this popular virtual world. When PPH hired Orlando Portale as its chief technology and innovation officer in May, he arrived armed with plans to put the hospital system, which serves North County, into the middle of Second Life. Within six months, PPH had brokered a deal with IT networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. to launch Palomar Medical Center West, a virtual form of facility located on a 900-square-meter island. The hospital plans were taken directly from blueprints supplied by CO Architects, the Los Angeles-based firm that designed Palomar West. It’s the first time a hospital has participated in Second Life, an achievement that Portale believes will put PPH in the top 2 percent of hospitals nationwide. Hospital visitors — or rather their avatars, who serve as virtual personas in Second Life — can tour the site, try out patient beds and test technology that industry professionals believe will be created in the future. “It’s very innovative, very groundbreaking,” Portale said. “I have a vision where health care is going.” For example, the operating room offers a glassed-off “cockpit” where surgeons sit and guide robotic arms through surgeries.

Second Life and Business - Linden Research Inc., a San Francisco-based private company, launched Second Life in June 2003. More than 12 million users have registered as residents, including 1 million who logged on last month. Though free, basic membership limits a resident to most of what makes Second Life so appealing. However, the purchase of apparel, cars, homes and even hairstyles comes at a price, which must be paid for in Linden dollars. Second Life economy statistics, available online, show that 146,269 residents spent between one and 500 Linden dollars in January. More than 400 reported paying more than $L1 million each. As of Feb. 12, the exchange rate puts $L265 for every US$1. Health care organizations, for the most part, have not made the leap to the virtual world, but Portale describes PPH’s move into virtual ventures as a “second life for Second Life.” Although PPH declined to detail terms of the deal with Cisco, Portale called the venture a multimillion-dollar investment. The two organizations split the cost of Second Life development, according to PPH spokesman Andy Hoang. After development costs, there is a $500 annual fee to maintain the “property” in second life. The only other costs were Portale’s salary and the $1,700 needed to purchase the real estate, Hoang said. The project coincides with the December groundbreaking of real-world Palomar West, dubbed the hospital of the future by PPH staff. The hospital is funded through a $496 million bond measure approved by voters in 2004. Portale sees the project as a model for hospitals nationwide but said the fact that PPH is based in San Diego makes it ideal. He noted that San Diego is one of the most wired communities in the country — it ranked in the top 20 of Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Most Wired Cities in 2007 and 2008 — and many PPH patients are employed by San Diego’s technology giants including Qualcomm Inc., Sony Corp. and SAIC Inc. Venture - But the venture into Second Life still came with concerns. The architect’s work had to be linked up with developers, used to creating games for Sony PlayStation3, to create a virtual replica of the hospital. While the Second Life hospital offers the chance to showcase top-line technology, such as electronic I.D. bracelets or electronic health records displayed on flat-panel screens, it is difficult to judge what actually will be included at Palomar West when it opens in 2011. The designers have included everything from video telephones to X-ray monitors positioned near patient beds. PPH and Cisco are scheduled to announce the Second Life venture on Feb. 25 at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s annual gathering in Orlando, Fla. A hypothetical gall bladder surgery will be presented, using yet-to-be created body scan technology and OR with real-time videos of surgeons from Japan and Brazil observing the procedure. “Most hospitals would shut the idea down before they tried it,” Portale said. “We want to be breaking new ground.”

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