A study at Edge Hill University to help develop and evaluate an app for children going to hospital for a procedure has shown that its use reduces fear and anxiety in children and their parents.

Thanks to funding from the UK’s Innovation Agency, Lucy Bray, Professor of Child Health Literacy carried out the study with children, parents and health professionals at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Stage one of the study involved interviewing children aged 8-12 years old and their parents visiting the hospital for clinical procedures such as X-Rays, surgical admissions, MRI scans and blood tests.

Lucy and her team found visiting hospital was stressful and disorientating and led to high levels of anxiety caused by poor preparation and information.

They then worked with Corporation Pop on the content for the Xploro app which uses 3D images, augmented reality and games to deliver relevant hospital and health information.

Stage two of the study involved interviewing 80 children/parents visiting hospital for a planned procedure, with 40 children using the app and 40 receiving the usual hospital information.

Information was collected before the children and parents went to hospital, when they arrived at hospital and after the procedure was completed.

The study showed that children using the app had significantly more knowledge, less anxiety about their procedure and were more satisfied with their hospital experience and felt more involved in decisions. Lucy said:

“Children can often find going to hospital for a procedure an anxious time. This research show that if children have access to engaging and accurate information they can have a better experience when they come to hospital, be less anxious and be more prepared for what will happen.

“The app can also help parents feel less anxious and learn about what might happen, so they can support their child.”

Parents also praised the app, with one commenting ‘I found playing with the app allowed us to talk about what would happen otherwise I wouldn’t have known how to approach it.’

Another said ‘….she feels more relaxed because she’s knows what it’s going to look like and knows about the anaesthetic machine.’

Lucy added: “These initial findings show the benefits of the app, but we need to do further study on a larger group of children, across multiple sites, to help us know more about the use off the app with the children.”

This latest research adds to other work by Professor Bray with colleagues at Edge Hill where they created a comic book and animation to help children feel less worried about going to hospital. 

The Children Coming to Hospital resources were awarded ‘highly commended’ at the British Medical Association Patient Information Awards this month.