Innovator develops app games to help children understand hospital environments
Going to hospital can be a frightening time for children, not knowing what to expect with lots of new things to get to grips with; invasive tests, clinical language, new people, treatments. Dom Raban realised this when his then 13-year-old daughter Issy was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer eight years ago.
His experience of seeing his daughter feeling scared of what to expect and confused by the different things that happen to you in hospital led him to develop Xploro, a virtual app-based guide to walk children through hospitals in a fun and informative way.
We spoke to Dom, the MD and Co-Founder of Xploro, about how Xploro could help children going into hospital now and in the future.
Demystifying the hospital experience
“When my daughter Issy began treatment in hospital, I found us as parents were kept well-informed of what we were about to experience, however she was left in the dark about her treatments which led to feelings of loneliness and anxiety,” says Dom.
Dom runs a digital agency which focuses on making apps and games – with this technology at his fingertips and his understanding of what children need to make their hospital journey less overwhelming, the development of Xploro began.
Dom explains: “The first thing children need to do when they open the app is create their own avatar, which acts as a guide and ally during their healthcare journey. The avatar will introduce them to the kinds of people they could meet during their time in hospital and explain some of the tests and processes they’re likely to come into contact with.”
Using 3D augmented reality models of the hospital environment, the app also aims to demystify areas of the hospital, such as wards and operating theatres. The avatar also acts as a chat bot, allowing children to talk to them about what a particular treatment or word might mean.
From the beginning of conception, Dom knew that Xploro needed to be designed based on clinical evidence – he is working with Dr Lucy Bray, Professor of Child Health Literacy at Edge Hill University, who is running a six-month clinical trial at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital with the app.
“We always make sure to take a user-centred process during the development of Xploro – not only do we work with clinicians and parents, we also have an expert advisory group made up of children between 10 and 16 years old. They tell us what is and isn’t working at every stage of development, which is crucial to getting the app right,” says Dom.
“Very soon we will also be running a beta trial with The Christie Hospital in Manchester, which is one of Europe’s biggest cancer centres, with a view to launching commercially towards the end of summer 2019.”
Being an AXA Health Tech & You Awards finalist
When asked how they felt to be chosen as a finalist of the AXA Health Tech & You Mental Health in Children Challenge, Dom said: “When I heard that we were chosen as finalists I was overjoyed. Over the last four years my team and I have worked really hard to make sure that Xploro meets the needs of children going into hospital.
“We know from all the input and feedback that we’ve had from patients, parents and clinicians that Xploro has the potential to make a real difference but this endorsement from AXA will really help us raise our profile and get Xploro in front of as many children as possible – reducing their stress, reducing their anxiety and improving their outcomes.”
The Mental Health in Children Challenge category looked for solutions that can support children and/or their parents in understanding and managing mental health. The solution had to focus on any mental health problem and part of the journey from pre-diagnosis to treatment.