New Xploro app helps reduce procedural anxiety in 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 in both the short and long term and Xploro is designed to facilitate this by letting them know exactly what will happen before, during and after a procedure.

Xploro 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 a cheery on screen character they customize and name themselves and who can answer any questions they have about their experience thanks to a state of the art, artificially intelligent chatbot.

The study took place over six months at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, the biggest and busiest children’s hospital in the UK, 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.

Commenting on the results 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, which is part funded by the Government backed Innovate UK, is the brainchild of Dom Raban who came up with the idea for the app when his own daughter was diagnosed with a serious and rare bone cancer at just thirteen years old.

Looking back on the experience Dom said:

When Issy was poorly and being treated none of us knew what to expect and the information that we were given tended to be directed at me and her mum. She didn’t understand what was happening to her and this not only upset her but made her very wary of the people that were trying to help her.

I'm delighted that Edge Hill's research findings validate what we're trying to do with Xploro, reducing anxiety for children who, like Issy, are facing a traumatic and often confusing healthcare journey.

We hope our evidence-based approach will help to increase adoption of Xploro and set us apart from other non-validated digital health apps.”

Xploro is currently on Beta trial at The Christie, Europe’s biggest single-site cancer center, and launches more widely in the Autumn.

A Spanish language version is also in development with the support of a €50k grant from EIT Health’s ‘Headstart’ program.

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