For and about Cancer Survivors in Second Life, and for anyone who has been touched by cancer

Friday, November 21, 2008

Experience the London Oncology Clinic ... virtually

I was 14 when I was referred to a consultant physician in Harley Street, London, to look at some strange lumps in my neck. A visit that led to a diagnosis of thyroid cancer and many, many more visits to see the same doctor, stretching over the next ten years.

So it was with some trepidation that I stood on the steps of the London Oncology Clinic in Second Life, because it, too, is in Harley Street. The green door somehow looked SO familiar ...

I pulled myself together, went inside and saw that the waiting room was on the other side of the corridor from 'my' consultant's practice, and the decor was different, and somehow that was a relief. I went in and sat down, glancing - as I remember doing all those years ago - at the magazines on the table, and immediately heard my mother's voice echoing in my head, saying 'young women don't cross their legs like that!'

The other avatars in the room were not very communicative so I went exploring further.

I smiled at the fact that although the Clinic is in London, the floors are numbered American-style.

Up the stairs, to the 'second' floor, and ... oh boy, turned left straight into 'my' consultant's room. I sat down on the same chair that I remember sitting on so often. Glanced over to the modesty screen in the corner with the examination couch behind it. I remembered my consultant telling me after several visits that he thought he had been mistaken in his initial diagnosis and so he was referring me to an endocrine surgeon at the nearby Middlesex Hospital. And how I felt a strange relief, that he was taking my symptoms seriously, and something was at last going to be done.

Down the stairs again (am I the only one who dislikes elevators in SL?) into the basement and the treatment center. I said 'hi' to the receptionist, Eliza, who wasn't very communicative, either, and walked through to the cubicles where several patients were having treatment.

I noticed that one of the patients, Dexter, was using his laptop. Others were reading, or chatting with the nursing staff. It was all pretty laid back.

By this time I was feeling quite at home so I tried sitting in one of the treatment chairs.

In real life, the London Oncology Clinic is a private clinic that was set up in 2005 and offers a high level of cancer treatment by over 20 top oncologists, many of them internationally renowned, and most of whom practice or have practiced in the National Health Service in and around London. This representation is designed to help patients and/or their carers to get to know the clinic before attending and to help reduce the stress of the experience.

This is a great initiative, although I could think of some tweaks that would make it work still better, such as, making better use of the robot avatars to explain what is happening, and notegivers to explain the purpose of each area or a running commentary on the audio stream.

To tour the LOC go to:


Graham Davies said...

I have visited the SL location too. I agree that it would help if the robots recognised visitors and at least offerend them a welcome note or a note with information about the centre.

Brenda Hoisin said...

I'm Brenda Hoisin (SL) and I constructed the animated artificial avatars (AAAs, not robots!) for the Clinic. I've considered the possibilities of AAAs reacting to visitors. They could certainly give out notecards and say things in chat to explain things in the Clinic. They could do so on touch or on proximity detection but it may become irritating for some visitors if the AAAs were to do that every time they walked past or on every visit. I'll try out some different method and see if we can get someting acceptable to work. BH