How Is Tech in Pediatrics Used to Reduce Anxiety

Pediatric practices often provide toys, TVs, and video games in the lobby to make wait times less stressful for parents and patients, and there’s usually some sort of reward in the form of a toy or sticker at the end of the appointment.

Progressive pediatricians are always on the lookout for ways to improve the patient experience. Some even eliminate the stress of waiting by offering telemedicine services to help young patients ease in.

But, what about during the actual appointment itself?

My own memories of going to my pediatrician are filled with fear of shots and other negative experiences; many times, kids are already feeling miserable before they even arrive for their appointment since they are sick.

Reducing Bad Experiences Through New Technology

Bad experiences at the doctor’s office when you’re young can affect how you view health care throughout your life.

Just the thought of needles, machines, and other treatment aids are enough to make a child fearful.

Regular preventive care is the basis for good health, but that requires developing patient relationships that are grounded in trust and open communication.

Through technology, kids can learn about their bodies and become familiar with the procedure used in screening and medical treatment.

How Anxiety Affects Children

Not all children are outwardly terrified by the thought of getting a shot or enduring treatment when they’re sick. Anxiety manifests in a variety of ways, and it can bubble under the surface for years before it becomes a concern.

While some children are more nervous by nature, how that relates to care at your practice is often up to you and the parents. Depending on the level and source of anxiety, it can manifest as:

  • Sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling/remaining asleep or having nightmares
  • Anger or sudden bursts of emotion
  • Defiance
  • Problems with focus and concentration
  • Avoidance or dwelling on negative thoughts

They may also ask excessive questions or follow the same line of questioning repeatedly. This is a way of seeking reassurance from the people they trust to keep them safe and comfortable.

Technology is used to help children understand the world around them. Here are some of the best ways that technology can be used to reduce anxiety and make that next trip to the doctor more pleasant for everyone.

Virtual Reality

Do you remember The Magic School Bus? There as one episode that took the gang on a trip through the human body that I’ll never forget. While we’re a long way from any tech that can shrink us and take us inside bodily systems, pediatricians are able to use virtual reality to achieve a similar outcome.

Such tech can show children what it looks like inside their lungs, heart, or circulatory system, and how such systems function.

This helps kids visualize their treatment, and it can even be used as the basis for mindfulness to improve overall health and wellness.

Game-Based Biofeedback

Any child behavioral specialist will tell you that children learn best through play. Scientists have developed various game-based biofeedback methods that can teach kids pain and anxiety management techniques like deep breathing, imagery, and relaxation.

Some of these methods are based on distraction and keeping the child entertained during treatments of evaluation. Others use a video game-like format to teach children how breathing affects their heart rates and brain function.

When a child can see what is happening inside their body and why, it helps alleviate the biggest source of fear, which is the unknown.

Tech in Basic Care

We all remember cold steel and antiseptics as part of our childhood health care. Some of these things become triggers for life. Technology is taking some of the stings out of preventative care practices like vaccinations.

Now temperatures can be taken in seconds without the child having to sit still for minutes at a time with a thermometer in their mouth (or elsewhere).

Needleless delivery methods make vaccinations and administering medications quick and painless.

There’s even a system called TAP that’s being developed by Seventh Sense Biosystems to draw blood in as little as one minute through an array of microneedles.

Diagnostic Technology

Machines are necessary for dental and medical care. But, looking at so many metal and wires, not to mention the need to sit still while strapped onto a table or inside some contraption, can scare adults.

With kids, these diagnostic tools can be terrifying. Children with chronic conditions can also become depressed, angry, or nervous by the repetitive and sometimes invasive methods used to diagnose and treat their conditions.

Nowadays, X-rays are conducted by digital technologies that can return results in minutes. There are even “smart pills” that a child can swallow that will monitor their health remotely as they go about their daily lives.

These devices have been used successfully to evaluate pediatric heart patients without unduly disrupting their lives.

Technology for Ongoing Treatments

Some of the tools mentioned above are for diagnostics and routine care but are also ideal for ongoing treatment of chronic conditions like heart and lung diseases, childhood diabetes, and cancer.

Consider how much easier it is to monitor the blood levels of a child with diabetes with a smart “tattoo” in the form of an electronic skin patch rather than having them endure needle sticks several times a day.

Another good example is 3D modeling. This technology provides doctors with an accurate map of bodily systems and has changed the lives of children living with heart defects.

Other phone-based tools like PEEK phone technology and D-Eye make vision screenings faster and more fun.

At-home technologies like the wearable monitors and tools like the CHAMP app provides effective monitoring for transplant patients while allowing kids to spend less time in a hospital setting.
They also feel less helpless and more in control over their condition and treatments.

Preparing Children for Treatment

A large chunk of anxiety is caused simply because children often don’t know what to expect from doctors and don’t understand why some tests are needed.

You can eliminate this by using fun, interactive learning apps developed just for kids. Such apps can be used as a fun and engaging way to teach children about health and how their bodies function.

The apps are helping children learn and also provide a foundation for developing motor skills, concentration, memory, and focus.

Final Thoughts

Advanced tech is used throughout the healthcare industry to improve patient care and outcomes of all ages. When children are able to understand their bodies better, it removes the fear factor from treatment and gives them agency over their health and wellbeing from an early age.

By incorporating technology into your pediatric practice, you’re making patient care more comfortable in the moment and building the foundation for a lifetime of wellness.
What are some of the ways you’re using technology at your practice?


Heather Redding is a content manager for rent, hailing from Aurora. She loves to geek out writing about wearables, IoT and other hot tech trends. When she finds the time to detach from her keyboard, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.

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