By World Healthcare Journal-
Hospitals can be scary places for anybody, but definitely more so for children.
At a young age, it’s hard to fully comprehend the way grown-ups act; why they tell you to behave in a certain way, or why they have to do certain things.
This is especially true in the world of medicine. Even the most-clued up people undergoing treatment can be baffled by complex procedures, alien-sounding words and hundreds of different drugs. Just imagine the confusion that a young child might have in the same situation.
But on the other hand, lack of information can be just as bad – or in many cases, even worse than long, confusing documents. The usual channels of patient information are print format: booklets, leaflets and magazines.
But these can be costly, and difficult to distribute to patients. The NHS staff tasked with preparing children for procedures are very thinly spread, meaning that many children go without thorough explanation or sufficient time spent detailing their treatments and conditions.
The importance of information
Dom Raban, the founder of Xploro Health, became acutely aware of this lack of information for young patients when his daughter Issy was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of cancer that affects the bones and surrounding tissue at just 13 years old. Issy underwent an intense treatment schedule involving 18 rounds of chemotherapy and multiple blood transfusions.
During her course of treatment at six different hospitals, she experienced a failed stem cell harvest and 10 weeks of proton beam therapy in the US.
Today, she is healthy, happy, and studying at university; thanks to the exceptional quality of care. However, Dom knew that throughout the entire treatment process information flow was poor.
“Issy had no idea of what the treatment environment would be like, or the pathway her treatment would follow. She was 13 and perfectly capable of being given the correct information. But the staff always talked to me - not to her. ”
Dom naturally wanted to do something in response to his daughter’s negative experiences following her treatment. As a former digital designer, he decided that an informative app for children would be something that could dramatically improve the young patient experience.
Xploro – what is it?
Xploro, at a basic level, is a health information app for children. Aiming to better their understanding of treatment pathways, and improve clinical outcomes, Xploro has a keen focus on encouraging children to learn more when they want – and have fun in the process.
As Dom notes, hospital, information is usually presented in dense, hard-to-read documents. Often full of technical terms and medical jargon, it can be incredibly counter-productive when interacting with young people, especially children.
By taking inspiration from other children’s apps that Dom had worked on previously Xploro uses augmented reality, AI and games to present information to children in an easily digestible and child-friendly way. Following the patient through the treatment process, the information that they need is always readily available.
When opening up Xploro for the first time, Dom tells us that the first thing the patient does is create an avatar. Encompassing several customisation features, they create an avatar unique to them. “Through this process, the child has something that they feel belongs to them, and that avatar becomes their guide through the hospital,” says Dom.
After creating their character, the app then allows the patient to explore the features of their treatment pathway. The app takes them through different virtual environments showing the treatment rooms, different hospital staff, and the technology they will encounter.
The app also features a vital AI-conversation bot. Through this, children can tell the app their current thoughts or feelings, to ensure that they don’t suffer in silence. They can also ask questions or queries about their disease and treatment – such as why they are undergoing procedures, when their next visit is coming, or which staff are going to see them that day.
“Through this process, the child has something that they feel belongs to them, and that avatar becomes their guide through the hospital” - Dom Raban, Founder, Xploro Health
And Xploro’s benefits are already being proven. A recent clinical study at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital demonstrated that patients using Xploro had a statistically significant reduction in procedural anxiety, as well as statistically significant increases in patient satisfaction and knowledge about procedures.
Xploro’s global vision
As children across the world suffer the same problem of receiving poor clinical information, Xploro is a product that can be utilised around the world. Dom aims for Xploro to help “one and a half million children” over the next five years.
Dom’s drive to support sick children in hospital is exemplified by Xploro’s Expert Advisory Board – all members are under the age of 16 (with the support of their parents). Recently the board got together to collaborate on user experience flow and improvements for the service.
Xploro’s UK launch is expected to be followed by a further rollout around English-speaking territories as well as Spain, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States which are also key targets.
Work is already underway to convert Xploro into other languages. There is a keen focus on translating the app into Spanish, which is particularly important for the United States where a large proportion of the population is Spanish-speaking.
At the moment, Xploro focuses on children with cancer in the 8-14-year-old age range as this is where Dom’s personal experience lies, but by focusing on a specific population group with the same condition, Xploro can better assess the effectiveness of its service, and make the best improvements.
Moving forward, Dom doesn’t rule out the idea of other versions of Xploro for different ages, different diseases, or acute and chronic conditions. If digital, personalised, patient-driven health literacy can be expanded and developed across the world – then maybe in the years to come, no patient will ever be left in the dark.
Dom Raban, Founder of Xploro Health
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