Markel is THE MAN. He probably has more friends than all of us working at The Monday Life combined. During the short period that we spent with him in his hospital room, he had friends calling him on his cell phone (which he politely asked to call back later) and nurses stopping by just to say hello. Who can blame them?? Like we said….he’s THE MAN. But sitting in a hospital room isn’t exactly the best place to keep up with friends. As Markel explained to us, “When I’m here, I feel like I’m missing out on stuff that happens outside the hospital… like keeping up with my friends”. That’s a problem….

So here’s what we’re going to do about it:

We’re going to provide hospitals with TECHNOLOGY. And not only the technology to keep up with friends. We’re talkin’ about much more. We’re talkin’ about computers, laptops, gaming systems, video-cameras, virtual-reality glasses that stream live-feed from the moon (OK, maybe they don’t have those yet….but you get the point). And that means keeping in touch with friends over Facebook. That means playing iPad games during treatment to help cope with the pain. That means video-conferencing Dad who is across the country… just to say goodnight. By the time we’re done providing these kids with TECHNOLOGY, they’re going to be more informed about and better in touch with the outside world than the rest of us. After all, they deserve it…they’re the bravest kids on the planet.

Why Technology & Support Matters (the science)

Technology can be used in the medical setting to provide social support and entertainment for children undergoing difficult medical procedures.

Biomedical technology has improved dramatically over the last few decades, resulting in novel treatment options for complex medical conditions (Newacheck, et al., 1992; Perrin, et al., 2007). Technology’s use, however, can be extended to other aspects of patient care. Email, instant messaging, social networks, message boards, and hi-tech games are all features of technology that can significantly enhance the experience of pediatric patients in the hospital.

Social support has been shown to facilitate a range of positive health and social outcomes in specific populations (DiMatteo, 2004). Technology can provide pediatric patients with increased access to family, peers, and entertainment. In addition to the psychosocial benefits derived from such engagement, technology as a means of support may be used to physiologically improve patients’ conditions (DiMatteo, 2004). According to the gate theory of pain, positive sensory distractors can reduce anxiety and promote patient relaxation, important aspects for patient healing (Klassen, et al., 2008). Social support and entertainment, through the use of technology, are therefore potential approaches to reduce the burden of invasive medical procedures.

Popular online websites, such as Skype and Facebook, can connect families and friends to hospitalized patients, further providing social support. Data on the direct benefits of popular media interventions to improve the intra-hospital quality of life are limited; however, recent research indicates that social media websites provide positive support and linking of patients across ultra-specific medical conditions (Greene, et al., 2011). Such social support can serve an important connective role for hospitalized adolescents.

For children with chronic health conditions, care must eventually shift from parent-directed management to self-management, as patients transition from pediatric providers to adult-focused health systems. When adolescents and young adults do not have a successful transition process, they are at risk for negative medical outcomes such as rejection of solid organ transplants, higher hemoglobin A1C, and increased disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis (Watson, 2001; Annunziato, et al., 2007; Cadario, et al., 2009; Hersh, et al., 2009). Health literacy, social support, and social media each play a critical role in this transition process. With the dramatic increase of adolescents discharged with chronic health conditions, the use of technology to encourage health literacy, social support, and social media is of considerable importance (Newacheck, et al., 1992; Perrin, et al., 2007).

Conclusion: Technology can be used an important means of social support and entertainment. It has a valuable place in the pediatric hospital environment.

Contributing Authors: Oren J Mechanic and Marley E Burns

Last Revised January 13, 2012.


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