Article in the Guardian:
Spanish health authorities launched a virtual portal through the Second Life website yesterday designed to help young people too embarrassed to speak to a doctor about sexually transmitted disease or a drug problem.
Real doctors will log on and offer advice to their anonymous patients. What both will see is an image of a consulting room with a doctor and a typical patient.
Dr Rosario Jimènez, of the Adolescent Attention Working Group, is one of the doctors who will spend up to four hours a week answering their virtual patients’ questions.
She said: “Teenagers do not often go to see the doctor but this is an efficient and amusing tool to reach them because we can both use the same route. Even though they do not often suffer serious illnesses, they often expose themselves to risks which can develop into problems in the future.
“This is a way to talk about their doubts about taking drugs or sexual relations which they cannot do in a traditional consultation.”
The Second Life health portal was set up by the Spanish Society for Family and Community Medicine (FYC) and the Coalition for Citizens with Chronic Illnesses.
Dr Luis Aguillera, FYC president, said: “This idea started as a way to connect health professionals and adolescents and to give internet users a reliable space to get health advice.”
The Spanish-language isla de salud (health island) on Second Life will also include detailed information on health matters and a meeting room for website users.
The FYC plans to open other Second Life portals for chronic conditions in six months.
Aguillera said: “Even though a virtual consultation can never substitute for a real face-to-face one, we will be able to deal with problems of dermatology and psychology through a webcam.”