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Changing the Game: Using VR to Make Shots Easier for Kids

No one likes getting shots, especially kids. A needle prick can cause wriggling, frustration, tears and, in some case, lifelong anxiety. When that anxiety shows itself in kids with hemophilia, it becomes more than a regular childhood fear. It becomes a big problem. So the doctors and designers at Nationwide children’s Hospital decided to do something about it.

“I work with pediatric patients with bleeding disorders and know all too well the fears and anxiety that they and their families can experience related to frequent needle sticks,” said Amy Dunn, MD, director of Hematology at Nationwide children’s. “I took this problem to our incredible design team and asked them to help our hemophilia team create a solution that would be cost-effective, friendly, safe and engaging for children of any age, and help with adherence to treatments leading to better outcomes.”

And with that, Jeremy Patterson, lead of User Experience Technology R&D and head designer for the project at Nationwide Children’s, rose to the challenge. He and his team created a virtual reality environment customized for patients with hemophilia. Although, if you ask Jeremy, he would just say it was fun!

“I’ve made lots of games and know what appeals to kids and what doesn’t, but creating something that has actually helped children have a better patient experience…there is nothing greater than than, ” said Patterson.

The pilot study is testing the first of its kind virtual reality experience developed by the hemophilia team at Nationwide Children’s and students from The Ohio State University’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design. The design consists of a disposable, lightweight and child-friendly headset that was made to be safe, easy-to-use, and hands free for patients who need infusions.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is looking into how this new technology could be used in a home setting or for multiple hemophilia patients each week. In addition to that, researchers are testing how virtual reality technology can make a difference in educating clinicians to not only provide better care for kids in Columbus, Ohio but all over the world as well.

Patient Brody’s nurse, Charmaine, said, “Brody just started getting his treatments through IV on a regular basis and was having a really tough time. But the first time her used the game in clinic, he was so completely engaged in the game when the IV was administered, he just barely flinched. The difference in hoe patients react during a procedure when they are playing these games is remarkable.”

In honor of upcoming #ChildrensHospitalWeek, we are proud to highlight the amazing work our doctors, nurses, researchers, and even computer game designers, do to help local kids!

Brody plays virtual reality games while getting medication at Nationwide Children’s.

Click on his photo to hear his story!

*Information and quotes can be found on Nationwide Children’s site and Pediatrics Nationwide blog.