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Virtual Reality Experience to Help Ease Pediatric Patient Anxiety Developed by Before and Saritasa

Prototype of immersive VR walkthrough of medical procedures available to children’s hospitals and clinics to reduce stress for pediatric patients undergoing surgery

Saritasa Technology Solutions, innovation partners delivering new products and solutions to clients, and Before, have released a new virtual reality (VR) software prototype to get children comfortable with medical procedures before surgery. The unique VR experience gives children and young teenagers a chance to familiarize themselves with medical tools in a safe environment ahead of their medical procedure to relieve preoperative anxiety.

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Before Inc. provides products and services to help acclimate and mentally prepare patients and their families for medical procedures. The degree of anxiety before a medical procedure varies but Pediatric Health, Medicine and Therapeutics reports that several studies indicate that 50% to 75% of pediatric patients suffer from preoperative stress. Before Inc. is addressing the problem by developing a VR tool that allows patients to experience what will happen on the day of their surgery using VR. 

“Even minor surgery can be terrifying for kids. My daughter struggled with anxiety before a minor operation and that experience made me realize how important it is to listen to our kids and provide them with tools to cope. ” said Dr. Warren Scott Comulada, co-founder of Before, Inc. “We created a virtual experience to make kids more comfortable with what happens in the operating room. They get ‘hands-on’ experience with blood pressure machines, oxygen masks, and other medical devices. It’s much more realistic and more effective than using picture books or videos.”

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Dr. Comulada is a Professor-in-Residence at the University of California, Los Angeles, Schools of Medicine and Public Health, with a passion for applications for digital health tools, such as text messaging, chatbots, and peer support platforms. Recognizing the need for new tools to address preoperative pediatric patient anxiety, Comulada worked with child life specialists and children to develop a human-centered design for a usable, friendly, and helpful tool. When it became clear that VR would be an ideal platform, the Before team approached Saritasa for support with development.

“Most people still think virtual reality is only for gaming and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Aaron Franko, VP of Immersive Technology at Saritasa. “Companies are using the technology in so many unique ways. It’s exciting to help bring a product to market that encourages the protection and treatment of mental health.”

Most recently, Before Inc, was selected to be one of the Startup Battlefield 200 companies for the TechCrunch event in San Francisco, Oct 18-20. They hope to secure additional funding to aid in the development and adoption of the platform. The platform is currently open to testing and feedback with children’s hospitals and clinics. 

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