Making a Case for Virtual Healthcare Communications: Mayo Clinic’s Integration of Virtual World Communities in its Social Media Mix


  • Donna Z. Davis University of Oregon


Mayo Clinic, Second Life, uses and gratifications, media effects, social capital


This case study reviews current health-related activity in virtual worlds and documents Mayo Clinics’ use of the Second Life virtual environment specifically, externally for developing community and providing health education, as well as internally for professional continuing medical education for a globally connected health network. The study explores the mediated effects of the 3-D online immersive environment as well as role of presence in building an online community in the virtual world of people concerned about the health and wellness. While a number of strengths of maintaining a presence in the virtual world are evident, such as the ability to create and nurture relationships, weaknesses are also identified. To date, Mayo Clinic’s use of virtual worlds remains experimental while its other social media tools including the website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are in full production. Preliminary results reveal different motivations for traditional social media vs. the virtual world including the ability to create an online identity (or healthy avatar), being able to consume multiple visual inputs that reinforce learning, and creating a social space that fosters more engaging conversations and meaningful relationships.