Tuesday, October 9, 2007

E-Medicine - The Virtual Thing or the Real Thing?

What’s your opinion of “virtual” colonoscopies and virtually bronchoscopies?

Virtual advocates claim virtual techniques are just as good in spotting lesions as the real thing, and are safer, less invasive, and less traumatic. Critics claim virtual procedures cost more, expose patients to unnecessary ionizing radiation, and delay tissue biopsies which may require a "real" biopsy.

And you do you have any feelings about the flood of “virtual experiences” popping up on the Internet. These simulate health and disease situations in “astonishingly real” 3-dimensional color and sound. Patients can conceive of fighting disease, living with disabilities, or even recovering. Using the Internet, the old can experience being young, the paralyzed can walk, cancer victims can dream of cures, medical students can be trained.

Are these virtual realities a recipe for phony cures or false hopes? Are they a partial answer to the doctor shortage? Do they have therapeutic value? We may soon know. The CDC is testing a “virtual office”, the American Cancer Society if offering virtual lectures, March of Dimes is setting up a virtual neonatal ICU, National Library of Medicine is forming a virtual island of reliable information, University of California is simulating a virtual psyche ward to help understand schizophrenia, and Stanford is organizing virtual operating and ERs to train medical students.

What, in your opinion are practical things we can do and not do in the realm of virtual reality?

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