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MEDi: A robot to ease needle anxiety in children

04well_robot-tmagArticleIn my childhood, I was one of those children who have severe fear of taking shots. Usually I began to cry in doctor’s office the minute I heard the word “shot”. Then it became a battle, accompanied with a series of screams and struggles, my parents had to press me down on clinic bed and told nurses to act as quickly as they could.

I am not alone, but the good news is that nowadays health care workers are trying to use talking robot to ease needle anxiety in children, reported by New York Times. Previous research shows that children who experiences distress in medical setting are less likely to access health care in adulthood, so finding ways to reduce pain in pediatric care is critical.

The robot, called MEDi would distract a child by talking to him/her and asking the child to blow away the dust from a toy when the nurse injected needle.  “Deep breathing relaxes the deltoid muscle”, researcher said.

Researchers at University of Calgary in Canada found that children in the robot-assisting group had significantly decreased pain and distress compared with those in the control group that got routine care. A total of 57 boys and girls, ages 4 to 9, who had a moderate to severe fear to needles participated in this study.

The study finding is exciting, isn’t it? It saves nurses and parents a lot of anxiety and makes the shot more precise and easier to complete. This is another example of new technology being used in clinical setting. I am also very curious about how children would react the second time they see the robot when it asks them to do the same thing such as blowing on the toy. Will they lose interest? Will it be as effective as the first time to see the MEDi, the “new friend”? But anyway, this seems a nice first step.

Image source: New York Times