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.
Annunziato RA, Emre S, Shneider B, Barton C, Dugan CA, Shemesh E. Adherence and medical outcomes in pediatric liver transplant recipients who transition to adult services. Pediatric Transplant. 2007;11(6):608-14.
Cadario F, Prodam F, Bellone S, Trada M, Binotti M, Trada M, Allochis G, Baldelli R, Esposito S, Bona G, Aimaretti G. Transition process of patients with type 1 diabetes (T1DM) from pediatric to the adult health care service: a hospital-based approach. Clinical Endocrinology. 2009;71(3):346-50.
DiMatteo MR. Social support and patient adherence to medical treatment: a meta-analysis. Health Psychology. 2004;23(2):207-218.
Greene JA, Choudhry NK, Kilabuk E, Shrank WH. Online social networking by patients with diabetes: a qualitative evaluation of communication with Facebook. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2011;26:287-292.
Hersh AO, Pang S, Curran ML, Milojevic DS, von Scheven E. The challenges of transferring chronic illness patients to adult care: reflections from pediatric and adult rheumatology at a US academic center. Pediatric Rheumatology. 2009; 7:13.
Klassen JA, Liang Y, Tjosvold L, Klassen TP, Hartling L. Music for pain and anxiety in children undergoing medical procedures: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ambulatory Pediatrics. 2008;8:117-128.
Newacheck PW, Taylor WR. Childhood chronic illness: prevalence, severity, and impact. American Journal of Public Health. 1992;82:364-371.
Perrin JM., Bloom SR, Gortmaker SL. The increase of childhood chronic conditions in the United States. JAMA. 2007;297:2755-2759.
Watson AR. Non-compliance and transfer from pediatric to adult transplant unit. Pediatric Nephrology. 2000;14(6):469-72.