Being in healthcare technology, I find myself reading countless studies; attempting to determine what direction my chosen field of endeavor is headed. Healthcare is moving quickly towards the empowerment of the patient. Electronic medical histories and records are being placed in massive data repositories; all so your medical care professionals can view them. In addition, it is expected that you will become the steward of your own patient record as well.
Up until recently, this movement has met with minimal success. Either we are not interested in the accuracy and timeliness of our medical records, or simply do not feel qualified to comment. Either way, a vast amount of federal money has been plowed into these initiatives with little to no return.
In a trade journal article, my eye caught notice of a story detailing how one healthcare system had fully engaged their patient community. When you enter their web-based portal, the first thing you are asked to do is create an avatar for yourself. There are a multitude of choices to be had and you can even upload your own custom online presence. In return, each of your healthcare providers also has their own avatar. You can interact with your doctor or pharmacist in a one hundred percent virtual world. Apparently the care professionals love this system as well.
The article ended with the healthcare system executives giving all the credit to the online gaming industry. I am all in favor of anything that will help patients take charge of the healthcare; but even now, the concept is eating away at me. Does it really take animated electronic alter egos of ourselves to get us to participate in the most important decision-making process we will ever undertake?
As I pondered the question, it struck me that we create and nurture an entire series of web-based versions of ourselves. We belong to networking communities where each of us only puts their best foot forward. The world get to see us exactly as we wish we were,; not how we really are. I watch commercials for war games where the graphics are disturbingly realistic. The manufacturers actually brag about how a demure middle-age executive assistant can play as a hulking military killing machine. Once again, we get to be who we want the world to think we are!
In live social situations, we tend to be on best behavior and share only the positive side of ourselves. As we become more comfortable with those who interact with us; we allow a few of our imperfections and human frailties to creep out. Eventually we hope to reach a point where those across from us see who we really are; and perhaps, just perhaps, accept us for who we truly are.
The cyberworld is competitive when it comes to social attention. There is a need to be the biggest, the smartest, and the most perfect. Rather than let our real selves sneak out, we tend to build upon our supposed perfection; finally erecting a superhuman! As we roam the fields of the electronic ether, we quickly lose sight of who we truly are. In near schizophrenic fashion, we develop a split personality. One side of us boldly conquers the e-world, while the other side is hidden behind the keyboard. Given enough time, the lines begin to blur and we fool ourselves into a false sense of perfection.
I am all in favor of people feeling good about themselves. My concern is that we become desensitized over time, losing the emotions and blemishes that give us birthright to the human condition. Fantasy encroaches on reality steadily and soon we cannot differentiate between the two. Compound this with growing online avatar community and the inevitable result is that we lose all true connection with each other. Instead of sharing in each others humanity, we compete to see who is the more perfect electronic being.
Truth be told, I use an avatar for my online blogging presence. I feel that the jetliner rising up into the sky speaks to who I am as an individual. Look closely at my blog site and you will find a recent untouched photo and a biographical sketch that has not been embellished. Other leave comments on my blog posts, invariably including the online community avatar as well.
I only wish that rather than leave each other’s electronic fingerprints in a computerized forum; we could actually interact and share with each other. I suppose that technology is being worked on as well. In the meantime, “Can your Avatar come out and play?”