Virtual docs set up in online worlds

For most teenagers, there’s nothing more mortifying than talking to an adult about sex (or a million other health issues, for that matter). So, with teens now spending more time online, here’s something that could help: Spanish health authorities have launched a virtual “medical clinic” in Second Life, a popular online world, The Guardian reports. In a “consulting room” online, real docs will log on to give medical advice to anonymous patients. They’ll be able to address such wide-ranging subjects as dermatology and psychology, thanks to webcams.

“This is a way to talk about [teenagers’] doubts about taking drugs or sexual relations which they cannot do in a traditional consultation,” Dr. Rosario Jimènez, who’ll be online up to four hours a week dolling out advice, told the paper.

While it sounds quite novel, this idea isn’t entirely new; Second Life, for example, already has at least one mental health clinic. And virtual clinics aren’t a far cry from phone counselling services, which have been around forever. One question though. When you step into a virtual doctor’s office, how do you make sure that the avatar in a white lab coat is a real medical professional, and not just some dude in his basement?

Virtual Doctor

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.