Chuck Webster, better known as @wareFLO to his 15K Twitter followers, fosters free-flowing conversation about our healthcare systems — in virtual reality. The social media celeb used his background as an industrial engineer–turned–medical school student and his love for VR to give like-minded people the opportunity to discuss topics related to health and technology in social VR. His platform, Health Systems Chat, acts as a virtual meeting space to connect people of diverse backgrounds and with different ideas and perspectives.
Read our interview with Chuck below to learn more about Health Systems Chat and how you can join the conversation 💬
1. What is your channel about?
Chuck Webster: Officially, Health Systems Chat in Social VR meets every other week to discuss different health and technology topics. Occasionally we really get into the weeds: How do video-based patient encounters work? Is medical artificial intelligence ready for prime time? What does value-based healthcare mean?
Unofficially, our conversations also include extended greetings among familiar friends, poignant and inspirational stories from patients and their caregivers, and thoughtful explorations of how VR, especially social VR, can address profound problems and opportunities of human existence.
2. What can people expect?
Chuck Webster: Like a good dinner party, the best Health Systems Chat in Social VR events result from the right mix of guests. The ideal mix, in my experience, is about one-third folks knowledgeable about the topic, one-third folks intellectually curious about the topic, and one-third actual patients and caregivers dealing with the health system being discussed.
We meet every other week to discuss different health and technology topics[, and] over the past year-and-a-half, attendance has gradually grown to about 40 to 50 registerees per event, on average.
3. Who are you?
Chuck Webster: I’m an industrial engineer who went to medical school. Industrial engineers… study systems — in my case, healthcare systems — and apply various techniques and technologies to improve these systems. Industrial engineering is, in a sense, a degree in workflow. For decades I’ve been involved in designing software to improve workflows: efficiency, effectiveness, and experience. Workflows are stories. Sequences of events: And then what happened? And then? Oh, no! Wow! Great recovery! What happened next?
Health Systems Chat in Social VR is one way for me to learn more about the myriad of healthcare subsystems that make up our healthcare systems.
5. What inspires you about social VR?
Chuck Webster: “In my not-so-humble opinion, healthcare VR’s most promising app is social VR. And the best example […] of that, for me at least so far, was standing silently next to someone in social VR, knowing that even though we’d just met, we felt a bond, without saying a single word. Try that on any other social media platform!” (Healthcare Virtual Reality: The Social App)
The above is completely consistent with the following (from the best book I’ve read about virtual reality): “People often ask me what the ‘killer app’ of VR will be… It’s not going to be trips to space, or courtside seats at sporting events, VR films, cool video games, or underwater whale-watching… Virtual reality is going to become must-have technology when you can simply talk and interact with other people in a virtual space in a way that feels utterly, unspectacularly normal.” (Experience on Demand)
6. You’ve hosted content and events in other platforms + IRL, what is unique about VR?
Chuck Webster: For several years I hosted group social video events, where each participant occupies a live video square. I’ve also hosted IRL (in-real-life) meetups. Health Systems Chat combines the best of group social video and IRL meetups. They enable hosted discussion among interested parties and allow for convenient promotion on other social media platforms, such as Twitter.
The biggest differences between group social video and social VR is that video conveys facial experiences in real time, but social VR does not, and social VR makes you feel as if you are physically present together, but group social video does not.
Many people I know refused to participate in group social video because they were “camera shy.” In contrast, many social VR participants […] have social anxiety that negatively affects their lives in the “real world,” but they have no such problem in social VR. Some even state their experiences in social VR help them develop social and conversational skills they’ve subsequently used outside of social VR.
7. Tell us more about your events.
Chuck Webster: My aim is to provide a conference-like experience with most of the best aspects but fewer of the worst aspects. Traditional conferences have many downsides — the time and cost of travel and accommodation being only the most obvious[, but] conferences also bring together people interested in a common topic. [I]n principle, you should be able to find someone with which to have a great conversation — potentially leading to wonderful partnerships and initiatives.
One of the venues I use for events is the Health Systems Chat Conference & Expo Spaceship. I can make it appear [as though] we are hovering over a city hosting an interesting healthcare or technology conference. Like a convention center, I have spaces for presentations and for exhibitor booths, and there are no unintroduced multitudes standing in line. Instead, we have exhibits, such as screenshots of interviews with speakers and diagrams of concepts relevant to conference topics, and we have moderators leading the discussion, prompting introductions, and keeping the conversation moving.
8. What have you previously hosted?
Chuck Webster: Health systems we’ve discussed previously include behavioral health (and tech), telehealth, health insurance, aging in place, dementia & caregiving, loneliness & isolation, radiology, medical informatics, VR in medicine, AI in healthcare, and investing in health tech.
9. How are you using social VR to build community?
Chuck Webster: I’m mashing together two social media worlds and communities. On one hand, I’m active on Twitter (@wareFLO) in health IT and healthcare communities[, and] the largest opt-in list of people interested in healthcare workflow and workflow technology that I know of.
On the other hand, the social VR community I’ve joined in AltspaceVR is exceptionally knowledgeable about virtual reality and remarkably precocious about almost every other topic under the sun. My hope is that folks have such a good time and learn so much they’ll want to subscribe to our channel for more!
10. How can people get involved?
Chuck Webster: Get a VR headset compatible with AltspaceVR, such as the Oculus Go. Subscribe to Health Systems Chat in Social VR! Attend, but, more importantly, host your own events in social VR. I’ll show up! And I’ll be happy to feature your event on the Health Systems Chat. Tell more people about social VR, especially on other social media platforms. Social VR is a great way to take relationships from other platforms to a new, more IRL-like level.
11. Upcoming topics on The Health Systems Chat
- Smart Cities, Smart Health!
- 3D-Printing & Maker Culture
- Augmented World Expo: Health
- Health IT: European Edition
- Sensors & Health
Many more are in the works!
12. Anything else you’d like to chat about?
Chuck Webster: I’d like to share a fantasy: Someday, toward the end of my life, when my in-real-life world begins to shrink, perhaps due to infirmity, I look forward to hanging out with dear friends I met on Twitter and in social VR. We will chill together on luxurious patios in exotic locales with wonderful views of the Mediterranean, Manhattan’s skyline, and the snowy Alps in social VR.