World News

CIGNA creating virtual health community

CIGNA, a leading health service company, has announced the development of a virtual health care community. This computer-simulated world is situated on a Second Life island, where seminars, interactive displays, educational games and virtual health consultations help foster real and sustainable behaviour change that improves health.

Developed by Method, a brand experience agency, CIGNA's virtual community provides 3D video game-like interactivity that enables people to learn and interact anonymously with like-minded peers in order to positively change the way they live their lives.

For example, the newly-developed nutrition zone helps participants develop their nutrition knowledge, learn how to make healthier food choices, manage their weight and understand portion sizes and food labels – skills that will enable them to lead healthier, more energetic and productive lives.

To make the presentation come alive and increase audience involvement, the presenter uses a number of 3D props and graphics. For example, real-time voting about the fat content of particular food items encourages audience participation. Up until now, virtual worlds have been pegged as a niche phenomenon, but the work Method is doing with CIGNA illustrates how virtual worlds can be properly integrated with multiple channels and communication media to educate users and increase results on existing programs.

Technology can help older people who forget

New research has looked at how technology can be used to provide reminders to assist older people in decision making. These assistance technologies have significant potential to help older people and their carers in everyday life. The research investigated the reminder systems currently used by a small group of older people, their attitudes to technology, and, through some simple experiments, their reaction to certain reminders presented using a variety of simple technologies and formats.

The project developed a prototype 'living room' system featuring a wireless network connecting typical home devices, including a telephone (conventional and cordless), a remote control device, analog radio, TV and computer. The participants disliked impersonal services, such as those provided by call-centres, and preferred the interaction that accompanies a telephone conversation. The format and delivery of automated reminders needs to be straightforward and able to capture the attention of the individual without becoming bewildering to manage or irritating.

Spoken reminders worked well when someone was undertaking a quiet task such as reading, but less so when watching TV, for which, repeated on-screen messages worked best. Overall, it appears that to be effective, messages and messaging systems have to be tailored to the particular behaviours and routines of the individual.”

New telemedicine service to help care for sick babies

Tiny Tom is the latest development of the tele-paediatric service, a major research project run by The University of Queensland's Centre for Online Health (COH), a research centre based in the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

COH Deputy Director, Dr Anthony Smith said the new service linked clinicians at Mackay Base Hospital, by video, with the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at The Townsville Hospital.

“Tiny Tom also enables parents and family members, who are unable to travel to Townsville, to see their baby and talk to NICU specialists and nursing


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