How One Hospital Is Using An AR Bear To Calm Young Patients

MRI scans, while safe, can prove especially traumatizing for younger patients.

Children’s Health of Orange County (CHOCK), a children’s hospital located in Orange County, California, has transformed its lovable mascot ‘Choco’ into an AR (augmented reality) experience that walks children through the steps of a standard MRI scan. The idea is that by familiarizing younger patients with the process, they’ll feel more comfortable during the actual procedure.

For those unfamiliar, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a technique used by radiologists to capture images of a person’s anatomy. MRI scans, while harmless, involve sitting in a loud metal tube and can sometimes take hours to complete. As a result, many tend to find the process uncomfortable. This is especially true for younger patients.

First spotted by The Orange County Register, MRI with Choco aims to provide a more comfortable experience for child patients by allowing them to explore a radiology lobby alongside an adorable AR bear named Choco. Voiced by a former CHOC patient, Choco provides valuable information designed to help ease the child into the process. Children are even introduced to the members of the radiology staff.

Using an iPad encased in a child-friendly cover, children explore the room to discover new AR content triggered by various real-world elements. Aim the tablet at the mural located on the ceiling, for instance, and patients can watch a virtual baby whale come to life in the real world. When it’s time to switch rooms, patients point their tablets at a seagull marker on the wall to unlock a series of digital footprints leading to the prep room. Here Choco shows off the gown they’ll wear during the test.

“We thought, ‘Let’s dream up something entirely new for our patients and families,’” said Debra Beauregard, part of CHOC’s MI3 leadership team, in an official release. “Our MRI team shared a problem they were having, and together, we came up with an innovative solution.”

“We have children that come through here who are on a lot of different types of medical journeys, and oftentimes, this can be one of the more overwhelming experiences for patients and their families,” added Ashley McGee, a child life specialist and member of the MRI with Choco team. “This app will help reduce stress and anxiety, and also help to promote positive coping skills and help normalize the environment.”

MRI with Choco is still in its pilot stage, though a public release is expected soon. The company is also working on a parent module that will answer frequently asked questions. For more information visit here.

Image Credit: CHOC

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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