Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Healthcare/MedicineAugmented RealityVirtual Reality

How Virtual and Augmented Reality Are Advancing Pediatric Care

Virtual and augmented reality applications are breathing life into the bleak sterile walls of hospital rooms.

 

Patients of all ages find hospitals terrifying and depressing, especially children in need of long-term treatments. Apart from the constant poking and prodding, strict hospital rules make the experience unpleasant for the youngest patients. Thankfully, researchers and pediatric specialists are exploring virtual and augmented reality initiatives to improve patient care.

Healthcare professionals are using immersive technologies for different purposes—from staff training to patient engagement. Virtual and augmented reality developers are also doing their part to contribute to patient care. Together with medical professionals, they have been exploring new ways to provide pediatric patients with fun and unforgettable experiences.

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Let’s take a closer look at immersive applications that make hospitals feel more comfortable and friendly for young patients.

Reducing Pain and Anxiety in Treatments

Virtual and augmented reality have come a long way. These immersive technologies have become powerful enough to provide comfort and relief throughout painful and unpleasant procedures. For example, VR and AR innovations have aided young patients who undergo gastroenterology procedures, chemotherapy, and blood draws.

AppliedVR produces digital solutions for virtual reality therapeutics (VRx). They aim to improve the clinical outcomes of patients with serious medical conditions using immersive solutions. Around 200,000+ hospitals have implemented their VR solutions, including Boston Children’s Hospital and Cedars-Sinai.

Both children’s hospitals use VR headsets to help their young patients cope with the pain, anxiety, and stress of their treatments. For instance, they let kids play Bear Blast before procedures to calm their nerves.

AppliedVR offers a wide array of games, movies, animations, and guided meditations, making the program suitable not only for kids but for patients of all ages.

Adjusting to the Hospital Environment

The hospital is the last place you want to be if you’re a child. Rooms are cramped, stressful, and no fun at all. Augmented and virtual reality are making the experience less overwhelming for the young ones.

Take Chilzone for example. Early-Adopter developed this unique platform to improve pediatric care. It makes the dreary walls of a hospital room come to life. Chilzone utilizes a wide array of digital technologies, from immersive technologies to 3D printing. It allows patients to tap into their creativity and natural curiosity. Moreover, it makes them feel comfortable and in control of their situation.

early adopter chilzone augmented reality pediatric care
The CHILZone is an endeavor to bring AR and VR to the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), in collaboration with Early Adopter and the Fine Art Collection at Montefiore Einstein. Through The CHILZone, Early Adopter is using immersive technology to bring art to children’s hospital patients in a way that no one else has done before.

One of their first creations was a program called Secret Garden. It places young patients in virtual environments, allowing them to see the people and places they love.

Early-Adopter believes that immersive technology has the capacity to relieve anxiety and aid in rehabilitation. Furthermore, they believe it has the potential to decrease dependence on pain medication.

The company raised $65,000 in an event last November, which enables them to expand their program.  They will provide Montefiore’s Bronx facility with 40 VR headsets before the year ends, making them the largest VR and AR program in New York.

Creating Engaging Therapy Sessions

Children in the autism spectrum require special attention. They are easily overwhelmed by visual distractions and noises during therapy sessions. As a result, care providers often struggle to teach kids with special needs important social and communication skills.

Floreo, a virtual reality platform, addresses this challenge. It helps kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder learn a wide range of social skills through fun and engaging activities. Adults with ASD may also benefit from this application. Instead of delivering therapy in the usual constrained environment, Floreo places kids with special needs in virtual environments. Parents and therapists can supervise the immersive experience, guiding young learners as they progress.

Using Floreo, patients can play games and engage in activities where they can explore social connections. They can learn calming techniques as well.

Floreo only implements science-backed lessons into their platform. Schools, therapy practices, and numerous households across the country are already using Floreo.

Meanwhile, kids equipped with Google Glass can explore Brain Power’s suite of AR-based apps to practice social-emotional skills that will strengthen their self-reliance.

brain power augmented reality for autism
Source: Brain Power Facebook page

These gamified apps include Emotion Charades, where the player learns emotion decoding by choosing the emoji that corresponds to their partner’s facial expression. The Face2Face app helps them practice making eye contact and paying attention to other people’s faces. For kids who struggle with managing transitions, Transition Master takes them on a 360-degree walkthrough of unfamiliar places to prepare them for their actual visit.

Achieving goals on all these apps earns players points and lets them level up, much like they would while playing a video game. Except instead of looking down at a smartphone or tablet, they are looking up and actively engaging with their care providers and peers.

Takeaway

Immersive technologies are reshaping patient experiences and enhancing therapeutic intervention. However, its best feature is its capacity to let children be children, even amidst the toughest times of their lives. With the widespread adoption of virtual and augmented reality headsets, pediatric hospitals around the world can provide children the care they deserve.

See Also:  How Virtual Reality Improves Care for Mental Health Disorders

 

Gergana Mileva
the authorGergana Mileva
Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance journalist and writer, focusing on technology, finance, and marketing. If you have a story suggestion for Geri, you may contact her here.