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USC Virtual Care Clinic to Employ Avatar Doctors

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 31 Jan 2017
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Image: Dr. Leslie Saxon standing in a virtual doctor photo tent (Photo courtesy of Eddie Sakaki/USC).
Image: Dr. Leslie Saxon standing in a virtual doctor photo tent (Photo courtesy of Eddie Sakaki/USC).
A novel virtual care clinic under development by the University of Southern California could in future provide medical care over a digital platform.

The USC Center for Body Computing is developing the Virtual Care Clinic to facilitate a technology-connected health care system, with the ultimate objective being the digital cloning of all 1,500 experts and researchers from the USC Keck School of Medicine. One aspect of the clinic is the DocOn app--currently in the development stage-which will showcase the medical avatars. USC intends the app to be eventually available in several languages for user around the globe.

The first version of the app is focused on atrial fibrillation (AF). During the run-in period it will not diagnose AF, but instead will be educational, providing information on recent studies, medication, or treatments gathered from reputable medical research. The Virtual Care Clinic is not intended to replace regular visits with doctors, but instead give patients additional resources to learn about their health. The first virtual avatar is that of Leslie Saxon, MD, founder of the USC Center for Body Computing; the avatar gestures, furrows her eyebrows, and talks just like the doctor herself.

“In a way, what we’re doing with the virtual care clinic is we’re developing the operating system for health care. Most of the health care delivery in the United States and globally will be delivered over a digital platform, meaning not in person,” explained Dr. Saxon. “To visualize this new future, imagine that your smartphone is picking up even more data than it is now; knowing what you ate for dinner, your exercise routine, and your family medical history. All that data could be turned over to your doctor, who could analyze it to see the transition from health to disease.”

“When I found out that Dr. Saxon and body computing was an entity, I thought ‘Oh my god, this is perfect, I’d love to use my programming skills in the context of medicine,” said Ketetha Olengue, a medical student at the Keck School of Medicine and intern at the center, who programmed the app and is also featured in the promotional video. “It’s exciting and it’s valuable because it’s just going to change the way people interact with their doctors. With an app like this, it allows you to talk to a doctor in the comfort of your own home.”

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