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Innovative app supports children going into hospital

Posted: 23rd February 2021

In the lead up to the Child Health Technology Conference (2-5th March), we are profiling innovators who we are working with that have developed paediatric innovations to help children. In this article, we look at Little Journey’s app which prepares children and their families going into hospital for surgery.

Pre-procedure anxiety is the leading complaint affecting up to 75% of children and a third of adults ahead of surgery. This anxiety is linked to delayed recovery from the procedure, post-operative pain and poor wound healing. But as important as the impact this has on clinical outcomes, this has adverse financial implications for healthcare organisations as it leads to an increase in on-the day cancellations and unplanned admissions. It also impacts clinical research trials with approximately 80% of clinical trials being delayed due to recruitment and retention issues.

Psychological preparation has been shown to reduce anxiety but requires significant hospital resources and staff time. It can also be challenging for parents to know what to say and their own anxieties can exacerbate their children’s. The parents of Freddie (aged five) said;

“We hadn’t really discussed the operation with Freddie as we weren’t quite sure what to say or how best to go about it”

Based on his clinical and research experience, Dr Chris Evans created Little Journey to overcome this. Little Journey is a health behaviour modification tool designed specifically to support children and their family through stressful and anxiety provoking healthcare procedures. Dr Evans explains:

We wanted to move beyond standard information leaflets to create an engaging and interactive preparation that can be easily configured to each hospital or clinical trial. Digital technology was the obvious choice as it puts the family in control and can support them over the whole peri-operative period – all delivered in the comfort and safety of their own home.”

The Little Journey app uses multiple behaviour modification techniques tailored to each individual child to support them through their treatment. From familiarisation through interactive games, desensitisation using virtual reality tours to coping skills education via child narrated animations, Little Journey engages and empowers families in their care.

Having used the Little Journey app, Alex aged 10 stated:

“It’s good to know what it will look like when I come in and I’m less worried now.”

The Little Journey hospital portal enables healthcare and research teams to work collaboratively to create new pathways within the application, update information in real time and monitor preparation behaviours.  Mr Christopher Hill, Consultant paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire said:

“Little Journey gives parents a way of talking through aspects of the surgery or admission with their child, which can otherwise be a challenging topic to broach, and it utilises fun games and characters which children respond positively to.”

The future of Little Journey is exciting. Little Journey’s cofounder, Sophie Copley – a specialist in human centred design, says

“Working closely with families and the Little Journey Young Person Advisory Group has enabled us to better understand what support families desired. New modules coming soon to Little Journey will help address these with distraction games, low sensory environments and medication adherence gamification and tracking tools.”

Little Journey has been extensively adopted across the NHS. Through support from the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, Little Journey has been successfully adopted by Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Hull University Teaching Hospital, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust.

Find out more about Little Journey