New study shows animated video coaching could help children with severe allergies 

A new study by Cardiff University has shown ‘promising results’ around how animated video coaching can help children with severe allergies to understand their condition or treatment.

The work was based around an ‘avatar-led, interactive, information video for children’ who were using an auto-injector device for anaphylaxis. The aim of the study was to compare the effectiveness of ‘standard’ face-to-face training on the use of an auto-injector device (known as AAIs) with an ‘interactive video’, for children of primary school age.

Cognitant, a health information company, designed an avatar cat called ‘Fizzmo’ to star in the video. The team from Cardiff worked with Cognitant to create the ‘age appropriate’ digital programme, which children could watch on either a tablet or smartphone.

The pilot also took the COVID-19 pandemic into account and looked at how children could be trained through the interactive video, if it needed to be provided remotely in the future.

The study included primary school aged children who had never used an auto-injector device before and assessed their competence – following a training session – through a number of criteria. This included monitoring their ability to identify where to place the device on the thigh, and how to use a fist to grip around it, remove the blue safety cap, use the ‘place and press’ technique and other aspects, such as hearing the device click, and holding the pen in place for three seconds. 

When tested against current face-to-face ‘standard’ training, the children who used the interactive video were asked to evaluate it by rating their enjoyment, saying whether they felt confident using the auto-injector device and if they would they like more teaching videos. 

Results showed a ‘significant improvement’ in the ‘hold for 3 seconds’ criterion for the interactive video group, with 80 per cent of children recalling the information in comparison to 57 per cent with the standard method. Other feedback showed that the majority of children ‘enjoyed and understood the video’, and would like to be taught that way again, with 96 per cent of children saying that they would want to watch other interactive videos on similar topics. 

It’s hoped that the pilot study, which was performed by Emily Balls, a medical student at Cardiff University, and supervised by Dr David Tuthill, will be able to ‘support the use of such technology and learning’ in the future. 

Dr David Tuthill, Consultant Paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital for Wales, commented: “We are really pleased with the results from this pilot study, as it showed that children can be taught how to use AAIs in a new way. They were also better able to remember to hold the device on the thigh for longer. We hope in the future that this novel way of delivering care will mean primary school children can be taught remotely about auto-injector devices. With anaphylaxis on the rise, sufficient child-friendly education into initial treatment for the condition is really needed. Being able to improve how children recall the information they are given is transformational.” 

 Emily Balls, the medical student at Cardiff University who performed the study, said: “This pilot was incredibly insightful for us as we had the opportunity to really explore how children consume health information and whether they would accept a digital delivery method. 

 “This project shows the innovative methods of technology that can be incorporated into clinical education for children. It demonstrates the importance of accessing resources designed to be understandable and effective. This is imperative for the delivery of safe and innovative education, especially in the current COVID-19 pandemic and ‘digitalising’ NHS.” 

Dr Tim Ringrose, Chief Executive and co-founder of the Cognitant Group, added:  “Our mission is to help people of all ages and abilities to understand more about their health and to be empowered to manage their health effectively.  

“This project is already demonstrating the impact it can have on children and how this technology enables the NHS to provide more support for patients with serious allergies.”