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

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 21, 2010

With these types of iPad applications, the information can be shared with the family and "everybody gets the same word."

He emphasizes that it's not just for kids. "Some seniors are not tech savvy; they didn't grow up with all these new forms of electronic communication on the computer."

But in a few experiments with the Medicare population at St. Luke's, the hospital has found that seniors seem to grasp health information on the iPad much better than they can on a computer.

"The thing about the iPad is that it's so easily portable. You can take this to the patient in the waiting room. You don't have to sit them down at a computer," Pate says.

Silliman says the six iPads their hospital purchased are being used with children 6 to 11 years old who are about to undergo brain CT scans. Max, a cartoon child who's already had the test, explains to his friend, Buddy the Bear, what to expect when he gets a ride through the "donut hole" of the machine, why he may have to wear a heavy apron, and what the machine will do.

The only problem at first was the hospital's Internet connection, which had to be upgraded. Now, the device seems to be helping patients and their families relax a bit about the diagnostic process, according to the hospital.

Officials for Unity, St. Luke's, and the Walt Disney Pavilion all hope that if the iPad's fun interface can help patients relax about their healthcare experience and that will lead to higher satisfaction and improved outcomes.

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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