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iPad, Cartoon Bear Seek to Ease Kids' Fears of Medicine

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 21, 2010

A cartoon bear named Buddy and a cartoon kid named Max are trying to assure patients that scary tests and treatments in the hospital aren't really so bad. And they're doing it all through the iPad.

Max and Buddy the Bear's "Bear Facts About CT Scans" is an application being used by Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children and St. Luke's Health System in Boise, ID.

"Where I see the big use of this is in our patient education," says David Pate, president and CEO of St. Luke's.  "So far, both the patients and the doctors just love it."

Marla Silliman, CEO at Walt Disney Pavilion, has been using Max and Buddy since the iPad's launch on April 3 "to see if children can learn through these healthcare modules in a fun and animated way. We want to see if they like it compared with the computer.

"And so far, it's catching on quickly," she says. "Even our administrators are passing it around in the board rooms and conference rooms, having fun with it."

Ken Hollsinger is chief operating officer of Unity Medical, which created the "Max and Buddy" application, and is working on variations for senior citizens undergoing cardiac procedures, rehabilitation, and even bariatric surgery.

"When we saw the iPad coming, we recognized the opportunity to deliver information in a clinical setting," Hollsinger says. "Up to now, most applications [on a computer] had very limited delivery in those settings or at home."

With the iPad, patients can play with the screen and learn, even as a friend or loved one watches at the same time, and help the patient remember what he may easily forget.

Pate says that's important. "When you see a doctor, especially if he or she has to convey something very serious and emotional, the patient often is not going to absorb it."

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