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Table 3 Summary of drivers, barriers and possible actions regarding use of virtual worlds (virtual worlds) for healthcare meetings identified at interview

From: Using virtual worlds as a platform for collaborative meetings in healthcare: a feasibility study

  Results from semi-structured interviews Possible actions/solution regarding results
Advantages of using virtual worlds for healthcare meetings • Use of virtual world for remote meetings would save travelling time
• Some people find it easy to use (possibly people who are used to playing computer games and who have good computer skills)
• Using virtual worlds can be enjoyable
• There have been many technological advances in communication so people may become used to using virtual worlds one day if their use becomes more widespread
• The ability to use the virtual environment to support collaborative activities means there is great potential for developing new ways for these meetings to be facilitated
• A virtual world could be used to manage group dynamics and interaction in virtual setting
• A virtual world can be used to provide clarity and structure to tasks that are traditionally seen as complex when used in the ‘real world’
• virtual worlds can be used to explore ‘risky’ behavior in safe environment
• It is possible to embed tools within environment that can facilitate virtual world meetings
• Use of virtual worlds for meetings could result in people who are nervous when meeting face-to-face gaining confidence and being more vocal
• virtual worlds could be used to host focus groups where attendees remain anonymous and therefore are able to express their opinions more freely
• virtual worlds facilities could be provided as an alternative to remote meetings
• Better usability of virtual worlds will mean higher engagement. It may be advantageous to initially test usability of those who already have high computer skills when studying behavior in virtual world settings.
• virtual world facilities could be designed to be fun to use in an effort to engage users.
Widespread use of virtual world would be helpful in engaging teams to use virtual world facilities as the concept would be more familiar to more people
• There is huge potential for using the virtual environment to enhance group communication, which can be tested through future research
• This could be explored in future research. It may be useful to investigate group dynamics in virtual world settings in greater depth before investigating ways in which group dynamics can be altered and improved.
• virtual worlds could be used in education through simulation of tasks. This may be particularly useful for teaching group exercises.
• This is a further reason why virtual world may be useful for providing educational simulations
• This is a potentially important advantage of virtual worlds that can be explored through future research
• virtual world meetings may be useful in empowering representatives of traditionally low-power groups, which may be advantageous in some contexts.
• virtual world may be useful for collecting data on sensitive subjects where participants may be otherwise deterred from contributing.
Barriers to using virtual worlds for healthcare meetings • Many are unfamiliar with using virtual world software, making it potentially difficult for this sample to use it
• Using virtual worlds is potentially difficult for people with low computer skills who work in healthcare.
• Lack of non-verbal communication makes people more difficult to read because you can’t see their facial expressions and other non-verbal nuances are lost. Furthermore it is not possible to engage in tactile communication when using virtual world, which can result in more emotionally distant communication
• Attendees of virtual world meetings may be distracted by the content of the meeting by the technology
• Technical difficulties can be distracting. There is a danger of attendees missing information due to technical faults.
• It can take time and resources to train people to use virtual world software
• Technical support would help users to know how to address technical problems with software. Also, a more user-friendly virtual world than Second Life might get developed in future.
• Technical support may alleviate this affect somewhat. Also, it may be best to initially recruit users who are already comfortable and confident with using computers.
• This is an important potential disadvantage of using virtual worlds. For certain purposes, they may never be as useful as face-to-face communication, but they might provide a highly useful remote-communication option.
• The virtual environment in virtual meeting rooms could be designed with the intent of directing user’s attention towards the speaker or the content of the meeting.
Technical difficulties can certainly be problematic with this software. It might be that virtual world software becomes more reliable over time. Procedures could be put in place so that attendees of meetings are able to alert someone immediately if they feel they might have missed information in the meeting. This is an important consideration if virtual worlds might be used for important healthcare meetings.
• Comprehensive instructions and checklists could be provided online by a central body. Additionally initiatives could be provided for members of teams with good computers skills to teach others in their team how to use virtual world software