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Tablets, smartphones prove helpful distractions for young patients

Tablets and smartphones are being used more frequently in healthcare practices to calm children nervous about medical procedures.

Tablets and smartphones are being used more frequently in healthcare practices to calm children nervous about medical procedures.

A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago suggests that smartphones and tablet computers can substitute for sedation or physically restraining children who must undergo unpleasant medical procedures.

In pediatric practices across the country, iPads and similar mobile electronic devices are becoming increasingly popular. By loading them with children-themed applications and movies, clinicians can use them to distract patients and reduce the anxiety associated with a procedure.

In a post on the University of Chicago Medical Center blog Science Life, child life specialist Chelsea Cress explained how the iPad and movies like Toy Story 3 have made a big difference in her interactions with patients. In her role, Cress attempts to help children feel more comfortable by focusing on psychological and developmental needs.

"If I was going to do a procedure with a kid before the iPad, I would have a portable DVD player, a light spinner, bubbles, all of these things that I would carry around in a bucket," Cress said. "The procedure is happening whether I'm ready or not. If I didn't have the right thing with me, by the time I went to get it, it might've been too late. Having the iPad is like having my box of tricks all in one."

Medical IT is evolving every day as new innovations change the way clinicians approach old problems. Integrating tablet computers and smartphones with traditional IT assets can improve scheduling, billing and the handling of electronic medical records. But, they can also save medical practices time and headaches as they no longer have to rely on ineffective methods of distraction, physical restraints or pharmacologic means of addressing a child's anxiety.