(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – A virtual reality gaming system specially developed for young patients is making procedures involving needles less painful for children and less stressful for parents.
“My kids go through a lot when it comes to needle-related procedures,” said Dr. Amy Dunn, a pediatric hematologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “I see the struggle these children and their families deal with on a daily basis, so I was looking for different and new ways to help them address this fear.” Some of Dr. Dunn’s patients get as many as three infusions per week for conditions like hemophilia, creating near constant anxiety and stress in patients and their families.
To make their treatments easier, Dr. Dunn worked with Jeremy Patterson, lead of User Experience Technology, R&D at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Patterson led a team of developers in the creation of a virtual reality game system that children control using their eyes, head movements and deep breaths.
“That’s extremely important,” said Patterson. “Whether it’s getting an infusion, a blood draw or lab work, these patients really can’t use their hands, so there needed to be a different way to control the games.”
The system uses lightweight, cardboard headsets. Because they’re disposable, there is no need to worry about sanitizing the headsets from one patient to the next. The games are loaded onto smartphones, so they are wireless, and nurses follow the progress of the games by watching a monitor. That allows them to intervene whenever they feel it’s necessary.
“The nurse is right there with the patient and she knows when they may need more distraction or less,” said Dr. Dunn. “It’s a nice feature that the nurse can actually orchestrate the game right there in real time, if needed. So far, the results have been fantastic.”