New app helps reduce procedural anxiety for children

A new study from Edge Hill University has shown that children using the new Xploro app are significantly less anxious before undergoing procedures than those who received traditional hospital information. 

Evidence shows children who are less anxious about hospital procedures have better outcomes, with the new Xploro app designed to facilitate this by letting them know exactly what will happen before, during and after a procedure. 

The app helps children understand what’s happening to them through 3D, augmented reality experiences and games which they play on a tablet or mobile phone. They are shown different parts of the hospital and get to explore equipment like the MRI scanner, ultrasound machine and CT scanner. 

Young patients are guided through the app by on screen characters they customise and name themselves and who can answer any questions they have about their experience thanks to the app’s chatbot. 

The study took place over six months at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and compared the experiences of children using the Xploro app with those who only had standard hospital information. 

The research, led by Lucy Bray, Professor of Child Health Literacy at Edge Hill University’s Faculty of Health, Social Care and Medicine, also shows children using the app have significantly more knowledge about their procedure, are more satisfied with the experience and feel more involved in decisions about their procedure. 

The study, which was in two phases, also explored the information needs of children going into hospital and showed that children really wanted detailed and honest information about what was happening along with lots of pictures, text and videos. 

The results of phase one, which have been published in the Child: Care, Health and Development Wiley online library, show that children also want to be able to ask questions and improve their knowledge to help them cope, specifically wanting to know about what happens when they have a procedure, what they should do during it and how it might feel, both physically and emotionally. 

Prof. Bray said “Our study shows how important it is for children, and their parents, to have engaging information about what will happen and what to expect when they come to hospital for a procedure. The children in this study loved using Xploro and it helped them know more about their procedure, feel less anxious and feel more involved in making choices during their hospital visit.” 

Xploro is currently on Beta trial at The Christie and a Spanish language version is also in development with the support of a €50k grant from EIT Health’s ‘Headstart’ programme.