A hospital stay can be stressful for anyone, but especially for a child who has experienced trauma. It’s one of the reasons why healthcare providers are turning to tablets to help children cope and stay entertained during the recovery process.
“Research shows that the quality of stay for patients and their potential medical recovery can be greatly influenced by whether they have a distraction device like this,” David Higginson, executive vice president and COO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, told HealthTech.
Phoenix Children’s makes tablets available to their young patients and encourages them to use the device as if it were their own. Patients can stream educational videos and kid-friendly movies from the hospital’s server and even access their own social media accounts.
“We have patients with cystic fibrosis who have to be in isolation over the winter months. Imagine being a teenager locked in a room with no access to social media for a month. It’s miserable,” Higginson says.
With the right distraction in hand, however, the experience can be less so.
Today, 20 percent of American hospitals offer patients tablets so they can watch movies, play games, listen to music and view their medical records, Barry Runyon, a Gartner analyst, tells The Washington Post. Here are some of the ways children’s hospitals are using tablets with their patients, and how they plan to use them in the future.
Shriners Turns to iPad Devices for Improved Patient Data
Recovery begins the moment a patient enters the door, which is why at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California, children are handed iPads upon their arrival. Doctors use the tablets to gather pertinent information from young patients prior to an appointment.
The iPads are part of an ongoing project called PROMIS, or Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System.
“I have noticed that adolescents are more willing to tell an iPad that they are struggling with peer relationships than to volunteer this information in response to in-person questioning,” says Dr. Michelle James, Shriners’ chief of orthopedic surgery, in a blog post on the hospital's website. “PROMIS has helped me uncover some issues that I would have otherwise missed.”
Since its inception in 2017, PROMIS has been incorporated into the practices of more than 15 Shriners physicians. The program, first tested by James in the hand and upper-extremity clinics, has been expanded to cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, cardiothoracic and other specialty clinics.
Beyond providing doctors immediate details to guide an individual’s treatment, the PROMIS data could also be leveraged to improve care for children with a wide range of health conditions.
Seattle Children’s Leverages Tablets to Distract and Educate
In addition to collecting more detailed patient information, tablets are being used to help distract young patients and reduce suffering. At Seattle Children’s, clinicians use iPads to improve child care and ease anxiety.
“The iPads give the kids a normalized experience at a time when nothing is normal for them,” Debbie Kruse, director of patient support services at Seattle Children’s, tells HealthTech. “These iPads offer them an outlet for entertainment through games, streaming apps and music. They help take the stress off of being in a healthcare environment.”
Through audio and visual demonstrations, the tablets also help child care specialists explain to patients the medical treatments or procedures that lie ahead.
“For example, they’ll play a sound of a cast being removed so the child knows what to expect, which can help ease their anxiety,” says Kruse. “They can also use the iPads to show the kids a picture of a body part, where their treatment is going to be and what it’s going to look like.”
And when it comes to entertainment, the tablets can be fully customized. This way, patients don’t have to use a device that “only has games a 3-year-old might be interested in,” says Kruse.
In addition, each device is tied to the child’s electronic health record. The EHR notifies the device when the patient checks out, and upon their departure, the device’s data is erased using Jamf mobile device management technology.
“This is just the beginning in terms of what we can do with these devices,” said Yooli Hardy, Seattle Children’s director of digital health innovation, in an article from the organization. “We are looking forward to introducing additional therapeutic and educational apps in the future that will help our patients live the healthiest lives possible.”