Social Virtual Reality: Health, Healthcare, and Health IT! – #HITsm Chat Topic

We’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 10/11 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Chuck Webster (@wareFLO) on the topic “Social Virtual Reality: Health, Healthcare, and Health IT!”.

10 years ago I wrote a blog post (#HIMSS10 Best Ever: Due in Large Part to Social Media) about how Twitter rescued HIMSS conferences for me. I’d been attending the premier health IT conference for over a decade but it had gotten so large and sprawling I no longer enjoyed it. I longed for its early small-town atmosphere, full of familiar faces. But then Twitter recreated that atmosphere via online tweetchats and at real-life meetups.

I still love, and am highly active on, Twitter, but I’ve discovered a new form of social media, one highly complementary to Twitter: social virtual reality! Social VR is any shared VR experience. I regularly share immersive, three-dimensional environments with people from across the globe. Starting during HIMSS18 I began hosting Health Systems Chat in Social VR events on the @AltspaceVR social VR platform. Only six showed up during HIMSS18, but they stuck around for six hours of conversation. And over 100 registered for social VR meetups during HIMSS19.

What is the most wonderful thing about attending a conference? Education, OK. Exhibitors, sure! But the secret sauce of great IRL conferences is networking. Standing next to someone, striking up conversation, and then… who knows? Social VR is perfect for this, at much less cost, to attendees, to (potentially) exhibitors, and, most definitely, to the planet. Air travel is a major contributor to atmospheric carbon and climate change.

What’s the difference between a social VR meetup and a tweetchat? (Which I feel I must emphasize I still love!) Social virtual reality is phenomenologically a completely different subjective experience than posting, reading, and replying to traditional social media activity streams such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and similar. Social VR leverages immersion (of your senses within a 3D environment, from a simple conference room to standing on the surface of Mars), presence (feeling as if actually physically present together in that virtual 3D space), and embodiment (you feel as if your avatar is actually, physically you) leading to conversation more accurately imitating real-life, face-to-face, social interaction. It is a high-bandwidth, dynamically co-produced, oral, postural, and gestural “dance.”

I could go on-and-on but I’ll describe one illuminating example. Last year, on a dare to myself, I spent nine hours in social VR hosting an event in parallel with the WTFix conference. Over nine hours, attendance fluctuated between 30 users and exactly one, but never zero! There was always at least one other person who, touchingly, stayed to keep me company! I’d say, please, you don’t have to stay. They’d say, no, no, no… no problem. One time we completely ran out of smalltalk, and we stood next to each other, comfortably and companionably for almost 30 minutes. Then they exclaimed, there’s someone! Five minutes later while I chatted with half a dozen new participants, I looked around to see my good friend had quietly excused themselves.

For almost 30 minutes we stood in silent solidarity together. I cannot think of any similar experience on traditional social media. But I can think of many similar experiences in real life. Even though social VR represents a progression and evolution of social media, to be perfectly honest, I don’t even think of it as social media at all. It’s too similar to hanging out with my backyard buddies during elementary school, dormitory roommates and neighbors in college, and after-work cubicle colleagues from our hospital MIS department. Oh, and #HITsm meetups at HIMSS conferences!

I believe social VR will not just augment, but will eventually replace many current IRL conference experiences, from education to exhibition to professional networking. All while saving money, time and the planet.

If you are intrigued by social VR, try a couple of fun activities. Create your VR avatar with this iOS or Android app and post a screenshot during our #HITsm tweetchat. Let’s see who can get closest to what we really look like! (I’ll also post links to this app at the beginning of our #HITsm tweetchat.) Check out the video in the tweet below, of the 3D world I created, and then enter the world and practice your browser navigation and controls.

If you can walk and chew gum at the same time, during our #HITsm tweetchat, open two browsers, one for Twitter, the other for the Hubs social VR platform. Here is a cheat sheet for browser mouse and keyboard controls. Or borrow your child’s VR headset (you know, the one into which they slide their smartphone). Please use earphones to eliminate extremely irritating audio feedback! Note, while social VR in a browser is fun, it does not do justice to the psychological impact of experiencing it in a VR headset.

Given the title of this Tweetchat I could have spent this entire post listing potential uses for social virtual reality in health, healthcare, health IT, and health IT marketing. For example, see my blog posts: Healthcare Virtual Reality: The Social App. and Virtual Reality-based Healthcare & IT Marketing) Instead, here, I’ll ask YOU…

Join us in Social VR and on Twitter for this week’s #HITsm chat.

Topics for this week’s #HITsm Chat:

T1: In your opinion what are some potential uses for social virtual reality in health, healthcare, health IT, and HIT marketing? Use your imagination and be creative! #HITsm

T2: If you could create or recreate any beloved indoor or outdoor 3D space (prosaic or fantastical) to share with fellow #HITsm ‘ers to hang out together in, please describe it!

T3: How realistic do you feel our social VR avatars should be? From cartoon-y stick-figure animations to real-time photorealistic holograms. Does it even matter? #HITsm

T4: If your social VR avatar could be any character from history, fiction, fantasy, science fiction, or the movies, who would you become? #HITsm

T5: How can you see tradition activity stream-based social media and social VR fitting together? Do they necessarily compete? Might they be combined to benefit each other? #HITsm

Bonus: (In case you’ve not done so yet) Let’s see screenshots of your 3D avatars using the iOS and Android apps downloaded from links provided at the beginning of this #HITsm tweetchat!

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
10/18 – #HITsm Free for All
Hosted by John Lynn (@techguy)

10/25 – Solving SDoH for the Home with #HIT #AI
Hosted by Gail Zahtz (@GailZahtz)

11/1 – Accelerating Healthcare Innovation with DevOps
Hosted by Nichole Gunderson and Ed Keen from @burwoodgroup

11/8 – Government and SDoH
Hosted by Susan Houck Clark (@SusanHouckClark)

11/15 – TBD
Hosted by Richard Corder (@RichardCorder) from @t1healthcare

11/22 – How Does Health IT Enable Accountable Care?
Hosted by Travis Broome (@Travis_Broome)

11/29 – Happy Thanksgiving/Black Friday – No Chat

12/6 – Seniors and Technology
Hosted by @naviHealthPAC

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always, let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.