The Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., opened a new pain care complex on April 3, aiming to eliminate pain in young patients by using video games.
Utilizing specially designed games combined with Microsoft’s Kinect technology, participants can improve their health without realizing they’re receiving treatment. The gamification places kids in an intergalactic world where they can paint, play and exercise, all while doctors analyze their range of motion.
The program changes the way medical professionals address pain medicine, says Dr. Sarah Rebstock, clinical director and a leader in the initiative. It’s often difficult to understand pain, particularly in children, due to its subjective nature. Usually, doctors only have measurements on a scale of one to ten to use as reference, and patients are released with improved conditions but still suffer from discomfort.
The video games serve as a distraction for the children but also target their bodies the same way a physical therapy session would. Not only can doctors monitor heart rate or motion, but based on the observations, they can change treatment and therapy in real-time to adjust to kids’ abilities.
If a child can only stretch his or her shoulder a few inches during a game, the Kinect software will detect the motion in degrees and indicate a problem area. The gaming system is able to target and track 24 musculoskeletal points in the body.
“Pain is one of the most underserved areas in medicine in general,” Rebstock tells Mashable. “Until now, it has been impossible to quantitatively measure and monitor chronic pain in children … This is one of the largest advancements in pain medicine in the last several years.”
Most children with chronic pain undergo lengthy, expensive evaluations before receiving treatment, and one in four parents of patients have quit their job or reduced working hours to care for them. With the new technology, families will be able to save time and money, Rebstock says.
Compared to therapy sessions in a gym, patients who used the video game had a better range of motion and reported greater distraction from pain. Data collected as a part of the initiative will be used to optimize care for individuals and also help evaluate the success of past treatments.
What do you think of healthcare centers using video games for treatment? Let us know in the comments.
Image courtesy of Children’s National Medical Center