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Virtual reality app invites children to explore hospitals


Jun 11, 2019 #health

A new virtual reality app is enabling young patients to ‘explore’ hospital corridors, wards and theatres before they attend for surgery.

Using a smart phone app, children can trigger animated healthcare characters to tell them about what they do and what happens on the day of their surgery.

The app is used in the weeks leading up to surgery to help take the fear out of their hospital appointment and has already been used successfully in a number of NHS trusts.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s paediatric anaesthetic department has teamed up with app designers Little Sparks to launch the Little Journey application for children who need to have an anaesthetic at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough or the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

Designed by Chris Evans of University College London Hospitals, Little Journey provides 360 degree views of all of the areas children will visit at the two hospitals as well as useful information about anaesthesia, tailored to the age of the child.

There is also a parental section to help prepare the whole family for the theatre journey.

Every year, more than 500,000 children undergo planned surgery in the UK. Anxiety before surgery occurs in around three-quarters of these children.

Little Journey aims to reduce this anxiety by familiarising children with the hospital environment – and all from the comfort of their own home.

Amy Norrington, consultant paediatric anaesthetist and lead for paediatric pre assessment, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this fantastic new app to our younger patients.

“When a child is told they might need an anaesthetic our medical and nursing staff will provide parents with a card or direct them to a poster with instructions on how to download and use the app.

“There are seven pathways, specific to different theatre journeys but all providing the same high quality information.

“For children with a 3D headset the images can even be viewed in 3D virtual reality!”

The application is free to download from Google Play or the App Store.

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