Smartbutton Social Media Sightings Before, During, and After #HIMSS18 #BEAM4healthContest!

A.S. (Antescript, the opposite of a postscript…) I think programmable interactive smartbadges, smartbuttons, wearable health IT conference hardware, are the future of conference badge technology! One cool idea will/would for a vendor to give all their representatives a BEAM smartbutton and control their slideshow content from a central marketing situation room. As the conference progresses, topical content could be continually updates, sort of like the daily newspapers at HIMSS18.

In the past I’ve been to several hardware conferences (such as the Open Source Hardware Summit) that gave attendees programmable computers with displays that functional as customizable interactive badges. Around the first of the year I researched programmable conference badges to assess the state of the art. I even started to build my own, out of a Raspberry Pi Zero, battery, and LED display. And then I discovered the BEAM Authentic customizable programmable smartbutton. I tweeted a 2:20 minute video of a slide show I created (about workflow, of course)…

…and @Lygeia suggested we buy a button to give away during HIMSS18 as part of what came to be the #BEAM4healthContest.

Specificially, we looked for patients telling a story about how they used technology to empower themselves. While there eventually were 73 tweets with the #BEAM4healthContest hashtag, there were probably more like a hundred to total, if you count tweets misspelling or omitting the hashtag. The post collects some of the most interesting, including videos of, and graphics for, the BEAM smartbutton.


Oh, the winner of the #BEAM4healthContest? @MedPinkRanger! She create the following animated GIF, telling her story… watch it and let us know what you think she said!

Me? I see a long and winding road. Lots of dead ends, but also lots of persistence. Finally finding the door to a diagnosis. Ending, finally, with a very clever Conway Game of Life explosion! (visual pun?)

PS More recent tweets about BEAM Authentic:

Social Media Ambassadors’ Patient Power Tech Challenge Winners & Next Steps

The #BEAM4healthContest contest spearheaded by Lygeia Ricciardi & Chuck Webster was a fun way to learn & highlight patient empowerment through information and technology

By Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia)

A sample #BEAM4healthContest entry

In our roles as Social Media Ambassadors for HIMSS, Chuck Webster (@wareFLO) and I teamed up to run a contest celebrating patient power through information and technology and, at the same time, exploring a new technology.

What We Did

Using blog posts (HIMSS18 Social Media Ambassadors kickoff patient power tech challenge), Twitter, and LinkedIn, we challenged participants (the contest was open to anyone) to create an image celebrating patient power using the BEAM button—a digital smart button you wear on your clothing that lights up like a mini-TV screen. Using an app on your phone you can program the button to show a still image, slideshow, or short GIF movie. The button lets you bring digital communication right into the physical room with you, without the distraction of turning to a phone.

Contestants used the BEAM app to design images, and share them on Twitter. We announced the winner and an honorable mention at a meetup at HIMSS, and made awards including a BEAM button (for the First Place) and some awesome 3D-printed gear made by Chuck (for Honorable Mention).

The Winners

We had some creative entries—thanks to all who submitted them! First Place went to Twitter user Pink Ranger (@medpinkranger), based in Boston, who submitted a couple of entries. One was a crossword made up of words related to patients, technology, and health:

Crossword by First Place winner Pink Ranger

What really impressed us about Pink Ranger, though, was her animated GIF made from 121 individual JPG images that shows how technology creates a sense of connection in healthcare. In her words, electronic health records (EHRs) “open doors and give us a bigger picture. As we engage more with one another, magic happens.” This is her GIF:

Animated GIF by First Place winner Pink Ranger

Unfortunately, the BEAM button doesn’t yet enable users to upload and project their original GIFs the way they can display images and slideshows—but that feature is in the works. For now, BEAM users are restricted to using GIFs from a subset of existing ones on

Honorable Mention went to Lisa Davis Budzinski (@Lisadbudzinski), a patient advocate and the cofounder of Central Pain Nerve Center. Her BEAM slideshow rotated to show the Central Pain Nerve Center logo; an image of herself and her co-founder, Rebecca Brandt, illustrating the fiery pain nerve patients endure; and a playful picture of them displaying their pink socks. Pink socks and the #pinksocks virtual community is a grassroots effort related empathy and change in healthcare. (Side note: it always makes me happy to link parallel advocacy and change efforts to leverage and amplify each others’ work!)

Images from the BEAM slide show that won Honorable Mention

We received other great entries, like this one from fellow HIMSS Social Media Ambassador and Janae Sharp (@CoherenceMed), related to health IT and mental health.

So What?

Through the #Beam4healthcontest we tried a new technology, celebrated patient power, and connected via social media with some fabulous people with creative ideas.

We also learned that launching a tech challenge just days before the HIMSS conference isn’t the best timing. Although the contest was not limited to HIMSS participants, many of the 40K or so HIMSS attendees were overwhelmed by the task of finding a cup of coffee, never mind downloading an app and designing and submitting a creative message. If we’d started earlier, we likely would’ve had more participation. In addition, we discovered the limitations of this particular technology (as mentioned above, BEAM doesn’t *yet* let you upload a homemade GIF or transmit directly from a social media feed, though both functionalities are in the works). But by definition exploring technologies on the edge means trying what is and imagining what might be in the near future.

So what’s next? Personally, I intend to keep experimenting with BEAM and other digital tools that are new to me, as well as looking for ways they can empower patients and other individuals to be their healthy, best selves. And Chuck is consistently pushing the envelope in technical tinkering and applications to improving workflow!

We are considering running another contest involving BEAM or another gadget that is just out of the mainstream. What do you think? Would you want to participate? If so, what technologies would you like to learn about, and what would make the process most easy and fun for you?

Augmenting 21st Century Health Conferences with Social Virtual Reality

In previous related posts (1, 2, 3) I’ve discussed social virtual reality (using @AltspaceVR) and my use of it during the recent HIMSS18 conference. In this post I present one possible path toward incorporating social media, virtual reality, and augmented reality into the health conference experience.

The goal will be to smoothly blend IRL/F2F (In-Real-Life/Face-to-Face) physical experience with online social virtual reality and augmented reality digital experience.

The first requirement is a virtual conference space that mirrors, in some ways, the physical conference space. While building such a space may seem like a lot of work, startups are already working on automatic conversion of digital architectural files into virtual reality models and experiences. Most social virtual reality platforms have tools for creating custom virtual event spaces. Here is a tour of the space I used during #HIMSS18. It was prebuilt. I did no customization except the HIMSSTV video and the floating white text orient new arrivals. However, it gives you a sense of how you can move around and what avatars look like.

Imagine something like the above event space, but a bit larger and containing rows of exhibitor booths. Each booth has a table and a backdrop. Both contain, on their virtual surfaces, various branding information (logos, taglines, etc.) and content (text, video, interactive apps, etc.). At the end of the aisle is a viewing area and a virtual projection screen. You are wearing a virtual reality headset and appear to others as they appear to you, as a customizable cartoon character-like VR avatar. You can move around and talk to other attendees. If you are using a VR headset, you feel as if you are physically present in this virtual space.

During the actual, physical conference, videos of keynotes and select parallel sessions are streamed live. Audio is audible within viewing area, but subsides to a murmur when you are between the virtual exhibitor booths.

At the physical conference, each booth is equipped with an inexpensive (~$100) 360 video spherical camera capable of live streaming 360 video over Youtube Live. Here is an example of video I streamed from the recent HITMC conference in New Orleans.

Click through to Youtube and view in appropriate browser or VR headset to view in 360 video mode. One of the four dozen inexpensive #HIMSSVR VR glasses work great too!

In a compatible browser you can pan around to look in any direction, including look back to see folks emerge out of the audience to receive their awards. One award recipient was not physically present, but watched the announcement of their receiving the award. If you watch until the end, you see folks milling around, chatting, next to the camera. While video resolution is low, it nonetheless feels as if you are literally present, especially when the camera is addressed, or glanced at, directly.

Here is my 360 video camera rig from #HIMSS18…

Now imagine waking over to a booth, clicking on a link or hotspot (possibly represented by a 360 spherical camera on a tripod) and then suddenly viewing the booth, including staff, attendees, and conversations among them, from the point of view of a 360 video camera among them. The feeling of transition is reminiscent over changing to street view in Google Earth. Someone in the booth looks at you (that is, looks at the 360 video camera) and say, “Oh, hi!” And then conversation ensues. Viewer comments can be seen via the Youtube Live activity stream. (Yes, typing is difficult while wearing a VR headset! One might temporarily doff the headset and switch to web browser 2D mode, or, in the not not too distant future, use a device such as the Tap glove to enter text without an apparently keyboard.)

That is what can be done in the near term, using existing, inexpensive technology. In the longer term, if this is a workable and desirable vision, you’ll see more seamless, turnkey, services offered by startups. Also, we’ll see lots of improvements in every dimension, from higher resolution 360 video (s)ee examples from the recent #VirtualMed18 conference 360 video livestream, which used a high-end 360 video camera) to more customizable avatars (so they will look more like their owners) to cheaper, more comfortable, functional, and convenient (look for standalone Daydream and Oculus headsets next month!).

So, what will a similar experience be like farther in the future, say, by 2050? Try this out. Yes, it seems like science fiction, but then SF has predict most of our modern technologies!

My Social VR Avatar on my Social Smartbutton

Wearable smart glasses and virtual reality headsets will be anachronisms. Their functional will be in us (implants, in our eyes, or even brains), and surround us in such a way we don’t even notice it (ambient & ubiquitous computing).

Here will be a typical morning for a potential health conference attendee. An internal alarm clock gently nudges them awake. Lying in bed, without opening our eyes, we review notifications which apparently scroll up the inside of our eyelids. They’ve been filtered and sorted by our implanted AI assistant. With which we can silently converse via subvocalization, so as to not wake our spouse. We mark a future health conference as interesting.

Later, conference details scroll up the wall in your breakfast nook. You notice a virtual option. You authenticate (to get the discount) and pay via a combination of blockchain and bitcoin.

Meanwhile, someone else, who you’ve never actually met in real life, but is your best friend, sees the same conference. Since they live in the same town where is to be held, they choose to physically attend.

On the day of the conference, you walk into a white room, the floor of which moves in any directly (like an omni directional treadmill, this already exists). You blink slightly longer than usual, an contextual AI interprets this as a command (like a click) to enter the conference venue. When open your eyes, the white walls are now 360 screens surrounding you with what appear to be the actual conference venue (this also exists, and was demoed at HIMSS18 in the Intermountain booth).

Meanwhile, your friend walks across the park, into the physical event facility, and as they do, you seen them seemingly enter your immediate vacinity, near the health conference “registration desk” (no longer needed for that function, but present out of tradition, and as a point of common reference, for example, “I’ll meet at the reg desk). Your friend is projected, via augmented reality (perhaps glasses, perhaps smart contact, or perhaps smart implanted corneal lens), into the room with you, the backdrop of which is the health conference venue.

You two then walk togther, to your first session. The floor moved beneath your feet. The venue background shift perspective. And your friend appears to walk beside you.

And so on! You get the idea. Virtual reality, augmented reality, the internet of things, will all work together to create the illusion that you and your friend, plus hundreds of colleqgues (some physically present, most virtual present), are attending a health conference together!

Wrap Up!

I hope you’ve found my fevered speculations about the future of health conferences, leveraging virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technology, entertaining. But I also want to be educational. Just like the four dozen #HIMSSVR glasses I sent out to Twitter pals (just in time for some of you to feel as if you sat in the front row at #VirtualMed18), I’m trying to combine two worlds I love, the HITSM/HCLDR twitter sphere, and the social VR-sphere. I hope you’ll invest some time playing around with this cool tech, so you can become a pioneer in the heath conference experience on demand (after a great book about VR, Experience on Demand).

By the way, great minds think alike. Lot of people are thinking about how to use virtual reality and augmented reality at trade shows! An obvious use is to entice folks into your booth so they can experience AR or VR, and to then show them something about your produce. But folks are also beginning to think along the lines of this post. How can we blend physical and digital tradeshow experiences?

Here are some interesting references.

PS It’s also worth thinking about how virtual reality, augmented reality, and smart buttons and badges fit into today’s #HITSM questions! See my Smartbutton Social Media Sightings Before, During, and After #HIMSS18 #BEAM4healthContest!

BTW, today’s #HITSM tweetchat is about the future of health conference experience, so…

T1: What can conference organizers do to provide tangible value to conference registrants – and those considering registering for the conference – BEFORE the event starts? #HITsm

Send attendees inexpensive VR googles, which work with either iPhone or Android, to view 360 videos of exhibitor products and services in action. Perhaps from the point of view of the patients! Though I’m not sure how many people would willingly go through ED and then into and out of surgery this immersively! (Wait, actually, I think a lot of rollercoaster, bungee cord jumping adrenaline junkies would jump at that chance!). These same VR googles can than be used used by colleagues to attend virtually in the manner described above.

T2: What are some of the most interesting and useful ways you’ve seen conference speakers and panelists share information to, or interact with, conference attendees? #HITsm

Each and every slide should include the speakers Twitter handle, conference hashtag, and an explicit exhortation to share on Twitter. I now do this every time I speak. If you can get folks to type your twitter handle into the twitter client to tweet about your talk, they’ll often follow you too. Another thing I do is literally give the talk before the conference while recording the audio. Then I match the slides to the audio in iMovie and upload to Youtube. And then I include that URL on the slides too. The way audience members can tweet not just the slide, but a close approximation to the entire talk. Getting back to virtual reality, the next time I speak (about workflow, usually), I’ll live stream 360 video. I often periscope my presentations. If I use a fish lens I can set my phone on the podium and viewers can see both my slides and me. In a sense, 360 video is the ultimate fish eye lens! Folks can see my slides, me, and even swivel to observe activity in the audience.

T3: What technology-based approaches can conference organizers and exhibitors use to create new or enhance existing opportunities for content identification, acquisition, and dissemination? #HITsm

Technology-based? Virtual reality (see above) and smart buttons/smartbadges! BTW, there is a connection. These badges can sense where they are and the direction they point. So they could serve to knit together virtual and augmented realities of the health conference experience. Imagine, though your smart glasses, being about to see the “ghosts” of virtual attendees. And virtual attendees being able to see the “ghosts” of physicial attendees in their virtual world. And then being able to communicate!

T4: How can those physically attending a conference and those ‘following along remotely’ originate, share and/or discuss conference-related content? #HITsm

I think what I describe above goes miles toward allowing folks to not just follow along remotely, but rather to feel as if they are literally, physically present at the health conference.

T5: What can conference organizers and exhibitors do to provide additional value to conference attendees and others AFTER the conference is over? #HITsm

Access to slides, obviously. But I think the most important thing conference organizers and exhibitors to provide is a means to continue the networking conversation. Getting people to follow each other, wherever, on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Which is why the “social” part of #socialVR” is so important. Social platforms, like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, allow you to follow and friend. If you ever used Blab or Firetalk, the social group video platforms, you’ll recall that after you register interest in an event, you’ll get a notification it is about to go live. Whether in social VR or social none-VR, encouraging and supporting these communities is the most important thing to me as conference goer. Just as conferences host before and after conference tweet chats, I’d love to see them also host social virtual reality experiences.

Bonus: What are some of worst examples of a conference organizer ‘dropping the ball’ that you’ve ever experienced or heard about? #HITsm

I’ve been very lucky. I’ve never been to disaster of a conference. And I can’t, at the moment, think of any such in healthcare. However, most of the controversies I’ve heard about in the IT conference industry in general have been about representation and diversity.

PSS Testimonials!

From #HIMSS18

From #VirtualMed18

My Trip Report: Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Workflow at #HIMSS18

“We are your here!” said anchor and host Adam Johnson (@AJInsight on Twitter) during our interview on HIMSSTV (the first live segment, 9AM, March 6th).

“Hereness”! It really is a word (noun: the state of being here in this place, according to the Webster Dictionary). I’ve been thinking about hereness a lot recently, ever since I started traveling to distant places and meeting distant people via virtual reality. For example, I watched the recent eclipse, with others, in real-time, via 360 video, wearing a VR headset, SIX TIMES, as it moved from Corvallis, Oregon, to a cruise ship off Florida. HIMSSTV is an important move toward making folks feel as if they are “here”, present at the center of action, at HIMSS18, at future HIMSS conferences, and in between!

If I had to boil HIMSS18 down to a half a dozen takeaways, here they are… (keep in mind, I’m a quirky person with idiosyncratic, even obsessive tastes…)

1. HIMSSTV is great!

In our house we have the news on, in the background, most of the day. When I got back from HIMSS18, I replayed all 9 hours HIMSSTV on ROKU instead. Loved it!

Action item: + Add Channel!

2. There were a lot of virtual reality demos on the exhibit floor!

Check out the photos on Twitter. The Virtual Reality Gets Real in Healthcare educational session at HIMSS18 emphasized that VR increasingly learns from, and adapts to, patients and clinicians. Costs keep dropping and the Star Trek holodeck is getting closer!

By the way, during HIMSS18 I hosted two-hours-a-day of social virtual reality experience. Folks from all over North America and the world, some wearing VR headsets, hung out in a cool meeting space in a beautiful Park on top of a mountain, discussing health IT!

Here is a tour of that space…

And here is one reaction to participating.

Action item: Join me in social virtual reality to chat about health IT!

Workflow has arrived in health IT, big time!

Workflow, and its technologies (workflow engines, graphical editors, workflow analytics…) have finally arrived in a big, big way. As an industrial engineer (basically a degree in workflow), who went to medical school, I’ve been evangelizing workflow technology in healthcare for almost three decades. Every year since HIMSS12 I’ve searched every single website of every single HIMSS exhibitor for workflow-related content, and then blog, tweet, livestream, and now host social virtual reality experiences, about it. Back then, believe it or not, hardly anyone even mentioned it. Now almost everyone has some sort of workflow story. This year my search query was: “workflow engine” OR “business process management” OR BPM OR RPA OR “robotic process automation” OR orchestration OR orchestrator. As a result I tweeted about over 200 exhibitors (peruse here, even if you don’t have a Twitter account).

Action item: Apply my Litmus Test for Detecting Frozen EHR Workflow (which applies to healthcare software in general).

Ai yai yai! AI!

Don’t get me wrong. I love artificial intelligence. I have an MS in Intelligent Systems, met John McCarthy (who named AI), and attended lectures by Herbert Simon (sometimes called the father of AI). Also, see my pre-HIMSS17 series, including A guide to AI, machine learning and new workflow technologies at HIMSS17 Part 1: Machine learning and workflow. The key to getting useful results from AI and machine learning is to ask, show me the workflow! Show me, step-by-step, MY workflow, and how AI/ML applied at a specific step in MY workflow, increases something good, or decreases something bad. That said, I saw a lot of AI/ML startups taking about customer workflow, particularly in combination with robotic process automation tech.

Action item: If someone tries to sell you an AI/machine learning solution, shout “Show Me The Workflow!”


If you’re interested in workflow, draw it and show it to me. I’m genuinely interested. You can contact me via Twitter ( or my blog’s contact form. (

If you’re interested in HIMSSTV, watch it!

If your interested in all the above, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, book your hotel in Orlando for HIMSS19! Review proposals! Submit a proposal! Exhibit!)

If you are interested in virtual reality, I have a really great book to recommend, it’s called Experience on Demand by @StanfordVR. It just came out. It’s about virtual reality from the point of view, not of a techie, but of a psychologist. It’s full of medically-relevant examples, from training to pain management. It’s about achieving hereness, through “presence”, the “illusion of non-mediation.” (My interpretation? Presence is the illusion that an illusion is not an illusion.) Since I was interviewed about virtual reality (and its connection to workflow) in the very first live HIMSSTV segment, watch it now! Please subscribe to my Youtube channel! I’ll post more segments from my social virtual reality experiences.

I’m so excited about VR, I’ve been playing Johnny Appleseed, giving away (over four dozen!) inexpensive VR glasses on health IT social media.

If I’ve run out, you can still get them on Amazon.

Why I Don’t Follow You on Twitter

How about a follow?

Report this message sent 8 hours ago from ????????? Delete this message sent 8 hours ago from ?????????

8h 8 hours ago

Chuck Webster MD #HIMSS18 Social Media Ambassador

I sometimes get this request. If we have met personally, in IRL, I sometimes acquiesce. However, unlike Facebook, Twitter is an asymmetrical interest graph, not a symmetrical social graph. Most of the people I follow are not in health IT and do not follow me. It is literally true that only about 10% percent of the 6K I follow, about 600, actually follow me back. While I think it is nice you follow me, I will not feel offended if you feel that since I choose not to follow you back, at least for now, that you chose to unfollow me. We both have our reasons and principles for who we follow, and I respect yours, and hope you understand mine.

Delete this message sent 8 hours ago from Chuck Webster MD #HIMSS18 Social Media Ambassador

8h 8 hours ago




Report this message sent 8 hours ago from ????????? Delete this message sent 8 hours ago from ?????????

8h 8 hours ago

Chuck Webster MD #HIMSS18 Social Media Ambassador

I’m sorry. I’m happy to explain further if you’ll direct me to that part of my DM that I did not make clear.

Delete this message sent 8 hours ago from Chuck Webster MD #HIMSS18 Social Media Ambassador

8h 8 hours ago



No worries. Take care!

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Chuck Webster MD #HIMSS18 Social Media Ambassador

You too!

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8h 8 hours ago


Snow Crash, Social Virtual Reality, The Metaverse, and #HIMSS18: A Science Fiction #HTreads Tweetchat

[For the 2/27, 9:30PM EST #HTreads tweetchat…]

Recently I innocently posted the following tweet, whose replies, and replies to replies, garnered between 700 and 1000 tweets (I lost count around 700, but the conversation refused to die!).

I think it is really cool that so many health IT social media tweeps love science fiction so much. There’s even a science fiction meetup at the upcoming #HIMSS18 conference.

So a #HTreads tweetchat about science fiction before #HIMSS18 seems appropriate. And, to be more specific, and dearer to my personal sci fi heart, I’d like to focus on one book, and it’s most cool high concept.

Believe it or not, the most compelling idea and depiction of virtual reality was published a quarter of a century ago: Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Not only is it on many lists of the top 100 science fiction novels of all time, it also appears in top 100 English language novels of all time. If you haven’t read Snow Crash (shame on you, especially if you claim to be a science fiction aficianodo), then at least take a couple minutes to skim this Wikipedia Snow Crash plot synopsis.

One could go on and on about how well (or how not well) Snow Crash not only predicted social virtual reality, but its then future society (our current society, today). Snow Crash was not omniscient; it was compelling. Many of today’s 3d environments depicting real or imagined worlds were and are deeply influenced by Snow Crash. Snow Crash popularized “avatar.” Snow Crash influenced Google Earth, with which we are all familiar. Even Quake (and so, Doom and Duke Nuk’em) was loosely based on Snow Crash. People read Snow Crash, the product of the imagination of a science fiction writer, and then they created similar technologies and worlds, influenced by Snow Crash.

Social virtual reality is about to take off in a big way. Especially when Ready Player One is released (set in my current hometown, Columbus, Ohio!).

You can also dip your (virtual) little toe in social virtual reality during the upcoming #HIMSS18 conference. I am hosting three, two-hour social virtual reality events on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, at 3PM-5PM PST. (For instructions, see A New Venue Two Hours Each Day During #HIMSS18: Social Virtual Reality!)

Let my pull out five ideas from Snow Crash, to use as #HTreads questions/topics (all these are in the Wikipedia Snow Crash plot synopsis):

Let’s start with the title: Snow Crash. Stephenson was inspired by what a Mac screen sometimes looked like when it crashed, sort of like static on a TV. I am also reminded of many sci fi and horror movies and TV shows in which snowy, static-y TV screens in indicate proximity of scary things or communication from the beyond.

1. Can you think of any recent examples of TV or computer “Snow Crash” scenes (static-y visual white noise…)? (I can) #HTreads

A central conceit, which at the time I thought was the weakest Snow Crash idea, because it didn’t jibe with what I thought I knew about computer science and neuroscience, was a virus that could jump from the digital world to the human biological world, through the computer screen. Ha! I thought this was ridiculous. But I kept reading, everything else was to bloody good. Besides, I think I sensed, Snow Crash was a bit of a parody, kind of like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which was also full of lovely ridiculous stuff. Little did I know, at least metaphorically, of today’s systematic manipulation of public opinion via fake news.

2. What do you think about the metaphor of fake news as a virus, traveling over digital social networks, leaping from human host to host? #HTreads

Read this description of the “Metaverse”:

“The Metaverse, a phrase coined by Stephenson as a successor to the Internet, constitutes Stephenson’s vision of how a virtual reality-based Internet might evolve in the near future. Resembling a massively multiplayer online game (MMO), the Metaverse is populated by user-controlled avatars as well as system daemons.”

Note, the Metaverse is much more than just networked virtual reality:

“The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space,including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet”

3. How might a “Metaverse” virtual reality-based Internet, resembling a massively multi-player online game, affect digital health? The Internet of Health? What about the Social Virtual Reality of Health?

Science fact: “Scientists have developed a brain-computer interface that reads the brain’s blood oxygen levels and enables communication by deciphering the thoughts of patients who are totally paralyzed and unable to talk.” (Paralyzed patients communicate thoughts via brain-computer interface)

4. The Metaverse is much more than VR (“virtually enhanced physical reality AND physically persistent virtual space”) how might the Metaverse be used to help patients who are totally paralyzed and unable to talk cope?

5. If you could write a science fiction novel that literally will change the world (just as Snow Crash began to do, 25 years ago), what would be it’s title? It’s scientific advance? The morale of your story?

Thank you for being interested, with me, in the realization of a cool, influential, science fiction idea, the Metaverse, or what I call, in its baby form, social virtual reality. I hope you’ll join me in this infant Metaverse during #HIMSS18. Just show up and follow the instructions!

A New Venue Two Hours Each Day During #HIMSS18: Social Virtual Reality!

[Looking for the event links?]

Whether you are in Las Vegas at #HIMSS18, or experiencing extreme FOMO elsewhere, you can hang out in social virtual reality with other virtually-present attendees, in a very cool meeting space, on a hill in a very cool park. In that meeting space (over my left shoulder) you can watch live video feeds from HIMSSTV. If you need a break from scintillating conversation with other #himssVR aficionados, wander around outside, listening to the chirping birds and the gurgling brook.

This post is mostly about mechanics of joining us in virtual reality during HIMSS18 (when and how). If you want to more about why, I’ve written a backgrounder: Shared Social Virtual Reality Networking for Health IT.

Pre-#himssVR workflow:

  • Sign up for AltspaceVR
  • Download the free PC or Mac “2D” clients
  • Visit the 24/7 Campfire event to practice controlling your VR avatar (top of your screen, after you log in)
  • Check out upcoming featured events (the eclipse-watching party was awesome!) & perhaps indicate your interest (you’ll be notified when they are about to start)
  • If you have a compatible phone, buy a Daydream or GearVR headset.
  • Of course, if you already have an HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Microsoft Mixed Reality headset, very cool!
  • But remember, the free 2D-clients do not require a VR headset to participate!

Now go to the landing pages for each of the upcoming #HIMSS18 #himssVR social VR events and indicate your interest! You’ll be notified when each event is about to start, but easy-to-remember will get you there too!

Once you enter one of the #HIMSS18 V R events, here is a suggested workflow:

  • Look for me (the brunette in a blue shirt in the banner)
  • Move toward me (desktop arrow keys or mouse, zoom on tablet or smartphone, look and click in a VR headset)
  • Unmute yourself (look down & left, click the red mic symbol, swivel using right mouse button, see below for visual)
  • Say hi!
  • Click on me to pop up a dialogue box and friend me (or send a text message, if having tech problems).
  • As other VR avatars pop into existence, greet them too (ask them where they are from, etc: Mingle!)
  • Watch the meeting room screen… wander around outside (birds chirping, brooks burbling, leaves falling, so cool!)
  • Take a selfie (lower left, camera symbol) & post it to social media
  • Think about how cool this would all be if you had a virtual reality headset! (if you don’t already have a Vive, Rift, Mixed Reality, Daydream, or GearVR)

Here is a bit more orientation. This screen capture shows three useful things to understand.

First, I’m the skinny brunette guy in the blue shirt (VR is thinning!). Look for me! The reason you can see me is I am looking in a mirror at myself. Over my shoulder is the virtual reality meeting space. On the far wall, is a projection screen, currently showing the #HIMSS18 website. I can play videos on that screen. I’m hoping to stream some HIMSSTV live videos there. But the most important aspect to understand is the menu in the lower left. If you click in the center on the triangle thingy (AltspaceVR’s logo), you’ll pop up an other menu with lots of options, the most important of which is “Exit” (extreme upper right). When you first pop into existence in virtual reality, your microphone is muted. Click (or look at and tap) the topmost microphone symbol to unmute. Headphones are suggested! Then move toward me (or some other avatar) to say hi. Closer you are, the louder the possible conversation. Next, look at the laughing emoji the lower right. Click that and you can cause other folks to see emojis over your head: smileys, frownies, hearts (you like what you are hearing/seeing), as well as hands (as in, raising your hand to ask a question during a presentation). Finally, most important of all, on the left is a camera symbol, so you can capture selfies, or reverse the camera to take pictures.

I’m as excited about health IT networking in social virtual reality as I was when first discovered Twitter, 10 years ago. I am convinced that, in five to ten years, we will take for granted our ability to instantly teleport to all kinds of fantastical and practical environments, interact with many of the same folks on Twitter we currently follow and converse with now. I hope you’ll join me in the new social media Matrix!

PS Follow me, Chuck Webster, MD, on Twitter, at!

Happy Valentines Day, Workflow, My Love!

Sometimes wonderful tweets get lost in the mist of time,
Sometimes they get archived in blog posts about rhyme!

Shared Social Virtual Reality Networking for Health, Healthcare, and Health IT Marketing

[This is a backgrounder for a series of social virtual reality events during #HIMSS18: 3PM-5PM PST, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday! Please participate. You don’t even need a VR headset! Head on over to for further instructions.]

I’ve fallen in love with the potential of a new social media medium. First there was blogging. Then there was Twitter. About three years ago I fell in love with social video (Periscope, Blab, and Firetalk, RIP the last two!). And now I am gaga over shared social virtual reality networking! I know that is a mouthful. I’ve seen it called at least three things: social virtual reality, shared virtual reality, or virtual reality networking. So I decided to mash them all up, until one becomes the generally accepted moniker.

Think of it this way. There are these virtual characters in a virtual place: a meeting room or conference, a shopping center, or perhaps a beautiful windswept hill or floating somewhere in the stars. You’re wearing a virtual reality headset, and can see out of the eyes of one of these virtual characters. You control it. You move it, point it, and gesture with it. You can customize it to make it look like whatever you wish. (Yep, sometimes it gets freaky. @ReadyPlayerOne anyone?) And there are other people strapped in their virtual reality gear, controlling… stop. No, “controlling” is too detached. You literally feel like you are in this virtual space, interacting with virtual people. And they feel the same way. It’s amazing!

Consider the following quotes:

“Shared VR is about sharing your virtual experience with another human who is also in virtual reality. This is the next step in communication mediums.” (Shared VR Explained)

“Virtual Reality is one of the most social technologies ever created…. Meet people from around the world, attend free live events, and play interactive games with friends. Day or night, there’s always someone to hang out with.” (The Top Social VR Networks You Can Hang Out In Now)

“why the world’s biggest and most popular social network [Facebook, would pay $2 billion] to own a virtual reality company…. Social VR will be entirely about inhabiting virtual space together, and driven by real human interaction…. Social networking has grown from text-based communication to largely visual, through the sharing of pictures and videos…. Virtual Reality is therefore tailor-made to be utilized as a social platform. It is, at its very core, about communication” (Virtual Reality in Social Media: Introducing Next Level Networking)

Shared social virtual reality networking is relevant to health/care/IT marketing in several ways. First of all, virtual reality, itself, without the shared/social/networking aspect, is a great way for prospective clients to kick virtual tires. Outside of healthcare, it is taking off, allowing consumers to more viscerally and immediately experience furniture, cars, and real estate. In healthcare, VR is taking off for educational and clinical purposes from learning to perform surgery, to preparing for a specific surgery, to distracting patients from the pain of surgery. It’s only a matter of time before it comes to health, healthcare, and health IT marketing,

About 15 years ago I was put in charge of researching whether it would be possible to replace our annual EHR user conference with a virtual online conference. I was amazed at the ambitious platforms out there. Many actually simulated a 3d conference space, allowing participants to customize their avatars, and upload and present PowerPoint slides on virtual screens projected to from virtual projectors in virtual meeting rooms. But there were three problems: expense, stability (ambitious but immature software), and lack of the virtual reality experience. It was like playing a game in which you controlled a character on the screen. But it was not immersive. You didn’t feel like you were actually “there”. Today is completely different. I’ve researched a bunch of shared social virtual reality networking platforms. Free: check! Stable: Tolerable (occasional crashes). Virtual reality? Check!

What about shared social virtual reality networking and health IT marketing? Set aside marketing virtual reality products in healthcare. Obviously, allowing someone, from the comfort of their home or office to experience a virtual reality product, while guiding and interacting with a them, will be a great tool. But consider marketing non-virtual reality products. How might virtual reality be used to market an EHR? A patient experience management platform? Imagine being an EHR vendor and being about to “spin-up” an entire virtual reality hospital and clinic, and allow clinicians (and patients!) to wander around and see how the health IT affects healthcare workflows and experiences!

And, further, imagine creating an entire health IT marketing conference one can attend in virtual reality! All (well most, forget the food) of what we love about real-life health IT conferences can be replicated (within a modest time frame, as the VR tech evolves, I am convinced!), from the milling around, to serendipitous bumping-intos, to lectures and panels. And, they can inexpensively be held in exotic places from Hawaii …. to Mars!

OK, enough palavering about the insanely exciting possibilities of shared social virtual reality networking. What are the nuts-and-bolts of getting started, now?

My First Attempt at Hosting a Shared Social Virtual Reality Networking Experience

Since the summer eclipse (during which I attended an eclipse watching party in virtual reality) I attended occasional events in virtual reality via AltspaceVR. When I realized I could, for free, host my own virtual reality event, I began thinking about hosting a health IT marketing VR event. So, about an hour before a recent #HITsm tweetchat, I decided to jump in with both feet. I actually didn’t expect anyone to show up. But what the heck, at least I could still always be able to say I tried it first.

Luckily, Lisa, and then Becky, saved me from failure. I tweeted out a link to the virtual reality space, plus two links to PC and Mac clients to download, install, and join me. Now, these are not full-blown VR experiences. They are 2D AltspaceVR clients. They remind me of the 3D user conference software I investigated 15 years ago. However, I am convinced, once one experiences the 2D experience, I think you’ll consider some extra investment to get the 3D VR headset and experience the full 3D immersive experience.

Let’s start with a short (17 second) video. I’m welcoming Lisa, who’s appeared in the doorway of the meeting space (customized! Nice outfit!). I’m in a blue shirt looking up. I’m actually shooting the video from @MrRIMP’s AltspaceVR’s account, so I can capture myself in the third person. Then, in the middle of the video, Becky materializes behind me (to the left of Mr RIMP). Becky and I successfully got our audio to work. Lisa and I didn’t. But you can text between avatars by clicking on someone and popping up a text box.

We all agreed, it was very cool, and worth trying again. Becky has a Samsung S7 so I pointed her toward the Samsung Gear V R (about $100). Both participants looked around the meeting space (and Lisa wandered around a bit outside the meeting space building).

Here is what I tweeted in order to invite folks to install the necessary software and join me in virtual reality.

Don’t bother clicking that link to the virtual realty space. It was just temporary. But do, if I tweeted out a link during a tweetchat, find THAT link to join me in social VR. Click and download a PC or Max 2D AltspaceVR client. Perhaps visit the “Campfire”, an always on virtual reality space, where newbies pop in and out, trying to figure our how to control their VR avatars. Got to events to see what happening, right now, or register your interest (so you’ll be notified when one is about to start): music, comedy, science, software development (especially VR), current events like eclipses or rocket launches. Just hang around in the back of the crowd, if you are shy. Then ask someone near where they are in the physical world to start a conversation.

Some Caveats about Shared Social Virtual Reality Networking

“Meeting a friend in a space like this is not the same as real life, it is something quite different but it still makes you feel “in touch”. When used with realistic expectations, social media should satisfactorily accompany real life interaction. Virtual social media offers the same benefits, but is more sensory…. Virtual Reality will probably not replace physical interaction – there is too much to be gained from being “with” a person in real time and space. … You dip into it, and it’s as fun to play as it is relieving at times to come out of. Personal interactions through virtual reality will, at best, serve to supplement our social lives as social media already does” (Social VR: Will Virtual Reality Increase Or Decrease Loneliness?)

I ended up focusing on health IT marketing, but social virtual reality has great potential for non-health IT folks, such as healthcare provides, patients, anyone interested in health, to get together to chat about common interests. I hope using virtual reality as part of social media becomes an easy and commonplace experience. And I think one important role for the health IT social media community will have will be to help support the less technical, but nonetheless enthusiastically interested, network in shared social virtual reality!

From Big Data to Smarter Care: The Workflow Dimension

One of the best things about being a HIMSS Social Media Ambassador (four years in a row!) is being asked to write about anything that has anything to do with healthcare workflow. It is both flattering and satisfying. So, when I was had an opportunity to write about the upcoming Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum (Boston, 10/23-24) I jumped at the chance! Also, please join the #PutData2Work Twitter Chat (today, 1PM EST, immediately after #KareoChat).

The relationship between data and workflow in healthcare is an interesting one. The Forum illustrates this. It emphasizes “action” based on data: “actionable information,” “actionable strategy,” and “actionable insights.” Action is part of the definition of workflow, since workflow is a series of actions, consuming resources, achieving goals. In fact, big data, data science, machine learning, and business intelligence platforms are helping to bring sophisticated process automation tools to healthcare.

In my three-series just before the HIMSS17 conference, I describe how workflow technology makes modern machine learning and data science initiatives possible. It is simply no longer practical, to manually download, transform, then put into a format causing useful action at the point of care. Data sets so large they cannot fit on puny desktop drives, and then so slow to upload and download and upload again, force us to, essentially, model data workflows and then execute these models, in the cloud, without continuous, direct, manual, human intervention. I discussed this at length in A guide to AI, machine learning and new workflow technologies at HIMSS17 Part 1: Machine learning and workflow.

In particular, I hope you’ll pay attention to the following three presentations at the Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum…

…and ask yourself:

  1. How does workflow and process automation help make machine learning and smart systems practical?
  2. How does workflow and process automation make generated insights “actionable”?

I’ll close with a quote from Hal Wolf, President And Chief Executive Officer, HIMSS:

“We want to maximize the patient experience at each clinic, and thus it’s important that we not be too rigid about workflows and systems. The clinics have room for flexibility and innovation.”

Most folks think of workflows in terms of day-to-day tasks of clinicians and staff. Obviously these “flows” influence patient experience. However, data-flow is also a kind of workflow. These workflows exist as both models of data flow, and executions of these models by various kinds of engines (workflow, process, orchestration, and data pipeline engines). Big data, business intelligence, and machine learning platforms have, at their core, sophisticated models and engines necessary to strike the right balance, between efficiency through best practice standards, and flexibility for healthcare organizations to innovate.

I also hope to see you at the #PutData2Work Twitter Chat: Building a More Informed Healthcare System, at 1PM EST, on October 12,

with @HealthITNews, @SullyHIT, @ShahidNShah, and @drstclaire!

Viva la workflow-powered data, and data-powered healthcare workflow!

If you are interested in the fascinating relationship between healthcare data and healthcare workflow, I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter at @wareFLO (for soft(ware) work(FLO)w).