059. Virtual reality

A discussion like any other?

Due to the pandemic, we will meet remotely on April 6 at 7 PM EST (Zoom link here)

Questions to ponder

  1. Who are You™ and who are you virtually?
  2. Is the internet real?
  3. With the app-ification of the world, healthcare has seen more than its fair share of internet-delivered health interventions crop up. From mental health treatment (for anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress, OCD) to addiction mitigation (for tobacco, alcohol, cannabis) to physical health improvement (diet, physical activity, hypertension), hundreds of apps have been developed to cure what ails us. On the whole, are these healthcare apps helpful, harmful, or neutral? Put more pointedly, do they represent “the shape of things to come” in medicine or is this the same old snake oil in new bottles?
  4. Is this discussion a “virtual” discussion? Is it a real one? (Is it “virtually real”?) 
  5. Iserson (2018) posits that “use of VR in medical education should increase patient safety and societal confidence in clinicians’ procedural skills, because inexperienced students, residents and practicing physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants will no longer need to use living and newly dead patients or animals as teaching fodder.” Do you agree with the general “gist” of that statement? Would you trust a newly graduated medical student who was taught primarily in “virtual” settings? What benefits are there to a medical education delivered “virtually” as opposed to one given in “reality”?
  6. In what ways can ethics be taught through virtual/extended/augmented reality?
  7. Is the reality of health care extending itself too far? No longer is a patient confined to the bedside for monitoring, often a physician will confirm a prediction first made by an algorithm, surgery is performed by robots: the human element slips away from the human science of medicine. Will these trends in the long run make for “objectively” better medical care?
  8. Has the internet made the world healthier?
  9. Physicians, it would seem, are already performing their work virtually. According to a 2013 study, a physician on average spends approximately 28% of their time directly treating patients, 12% of their time reviewing test results and records, 13% of their time in discussion with colleagues, and 44% of their time on data entry. The alarming figure of 4,000 mouse clicks a day entering and reviewing data was found. Physicians regularly speak of being overworked and interacting with patients less. Yet, more and more of their time is demanded in service of keeping records in lieu of treating patients. What can be done to mitigate physicians from becoming glorified data entrants? (Conversely, and in reference to question 7, what can be done to prevent data models from becoming physicians?)
  10. I understand that “killing” something playing a video game is not the same thing as “killing” something in reality. Yet, is there not some relation between the two? What does a consistent and readily available form of engaging entertainment involving mass violence do to people?
  11. Are you “accurately” represented by your social media presence(s)?
  12. Are “you” being tracked accurately by all those algorithms that find us? Could there exist a meta-bias for the types of algorithms you attract? (For example, do those with gambling problems preferentially face being presented with advertisements for sports betting?) And if so, what sort of “anti bias” training would we have to ensure these algorithms go through? 
  13. Can one be addicted to Internet?

Readings to consider