Little Nirvana: the immersive virtual reality experience helping kids fight pain
Millions of children endure painful medical events annually, such as vaccinations, blood sampling, minor surgery or invasive examinations – understandably, a scary prospect for children. Their fear of a potentially painful treatment can make treatment difficult and lead to anxiety before any medical intervention, even in adult life.
Pain is a vital sign that needs addressing, according to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisations. Recognising the strong link between pain and fear, the Commission recommends that pain therapy be accompanied with psychological interventions, helping children feel more trusting of, and empowered by, clinicians.
The Little-NIRVANA consortium saw a gap for a more holistic, child-centred approach, offering continuous care and empowerment throughout the whole patient journey. Holistic tools, such as educational modules, active distraction games and training tools with bio feedback are vital, but haven’t been available.
Little-NIRVANA uses gamification technology – an app and VR – to focus on the child’s needs in the care pathway from home to hospital bed, enhancing the child’s wellbeing, and leading to an eventual healthcare cost reduction.
The app contains educational, relaxation and training modules, for children and parents at home preparing for an upcoming hospital visit, and for use in the waiting room.
Meanwhile, a multi-sensory VR game, which vibrates in line with the action on-screen and includes a scent device, acts as a distraction during medical procedures. A dashboard allows the medical health professional to see what the child is seeing and adjust the programme depending on the patient’s reactions, while monitoring their pain through AI-based pain monitor, MedaSense.
By using a mix of VR and non-VR-based modules, Little-NIRVANA aims to create tailored experiences to build up the children’s trust when visiting a healthcare professional, while helping them to handle pain.