Funding innovation at West Herts Hospitals

Foundation Year 2 doctors, Andrew Zhou and Rohan Misra have developed VR technology to help prepare young patients for MRI scans

Virtual reality innovation to prepare children for MRI scans

Virtual reality (VR) headsets will be used to prepare young patients for MRI scans at West Herts Hospitals, offering an alternative to sedation. Two Foundation Year doctors at West Herts Hospitals, Andrew Zhou and Rohan Misra, have developed a VR game to alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with MRI scans for children.

MRI scans are crucial for displaying internal body structures and detecting various medical conditions. However, for children undergoing an MRI scan, the experience can be challenging. The primary difficulty lies in the necessity for a child to remain completely still for an extended period. Issues that can arise if this isn’t possible include:

  • Increased anxiety for the child and their family
  • Need for sedation and the inherent risks associated
  • Risk of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis as a result of blurred images
  • Additional costs for rescanning

Addressing this problem required an innovative and child-friendly solution to help children feel more comfortable and cooperative during MRI scans. The need is to significantly reduce the need for sedation and for re-scans.

The solution:

Foundation Year 2 doctors, Andrew Zhou and Rohan Misra have worked with VR developer Neeti Kumar to create a virtual reality game to educate and prepare children for their MRI scan at Watford General in a fun and innovative way. The game includes customisable characters and challenges suitable for children of different ages and learning abilities. The aim is that the game will help reduce anxiety and help to prepare young patients for their scan. The VR game is expected to accelerate the preparation process, which will save time, costs, and improve the patient experience. For the play specialist who helps to prepare a young patient for their scan, this offers an additional tool that is child-friendly and will appeal to young patients of all ages.

Patient journey

During the play specialist assessment, a young patient will initially be given the chance to experience the VR game. At this stage, play specialists would usually use more time-consuming methods to help prepare a child for an MRI scan, but the use of VR will accelerate the process and help prepare a young patient more efficiently and in an innovative and fun way. This will then prevent the need to sedate the child to have a scan completed, saving time, costs, and improving patient experience.

West Herts Hospitals Charity CEO, Alison Rosen, said: “We’re delighted to fund this technology which aims to reduce the need for sedation in young patients. The team here were very impressed by Rohan and Andrew’s idea. Huge thanks to All Aboard Charity Shops whose grant will enable the clinicians to purchase the headsets, develop the game and run trials.”

Thank you to All Aboard Charity Shops whose grant will enable the clinicians to purchase the headsets, develop the game and run trials at Watford General Hospital. The trials start in the next few weeks and will provide vital data on the effectiveness of the virtual reality game. The use of virtual reality software could also be trialled for other procedures across West Herts Hospitals.

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