This Hospital is Using VR to Make Shots Easier For Kids

This VR game is controlled through breathing, eye and head movements.

When it comes to kids visiting the doctor, getting poked with a needle tops the list of things they probably hate most. For most children, getting a shot can be painful, but it’s usually over as quickly as it began.

Children with the blood disorder hemophilia on the other hand often must endure multiple rounds of needles every week for blood transfusions to prevent serious joint damage. It can be stressful for patients, amplifying any anxiety they may already have about needles and the procedure.

That’s why doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital are working with a team of developers to create a virtual reality game to make getting shots much easier for the young patients.


A pilot study with the hospital’s hemophilia team, design experts, and students from The Ohio State University lets kids distract themselves in virtual reality during infusions and other procedures. The VR game, Voxel Bay, was created specifically to engage the children in an immersive environment of penguins, pirates and hermit crabs.

This is not your normal Google Cardboard headset VR game. The completely customized headset was thoughtfully crafted to make it easy to use and more importantly, ensure the child patient can play hands-free. The last thing you want is the patient flicking a gamepad around while a nurse attempts to insert an IV.

The entire game is controlled by the patient’s eye and head movements—and even their breath.


Funded by a grant from the National Hemophilia Foundation, the pilot study makes use of disposable cardboard headsets, reducing the worry around sanitizing the headsets from one patient to next. The VR game is loaded up on a smartphone and nurses can follow the progress of the games by watching on a tablet. Being able to have interaction between the nurse and patient was an important feature clinicians challenged the design team to create.

“The nurse is right there with the patient and she knows when they may need more distraction or less,” said Dr. Amy Dunn, a pediatric hematologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “It’s a nice feature that the nurse can actually orchestrate the game right there in real time, if needed. So far, the results have been fantastic.”


So far the results are looking positive.

The team at Nationwide Children’s are currently exploring how this technology could be used in the home setting for the multiple infusions patients with hemophilia get each week. They are also testing how VR can make a difference in educating clinicians.

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder of VRScout.

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