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Innovation award for app which relaxes children before surgery

A tablet-based app, able to help relax and distract children while they are being anaesthetised for surgery, has beaten 340 other contenders to win an NHS England Acorn Challenge Innovation Award. The prize is for simple ideas that have the potential to make a big difference to patients.

RELAX Anaesthetics was produced through a creative and investment joint partnership between digital content developers, Imagineear Ltd, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and CW+, the hospital’s charity, as part of their Enterprising Health Partnership to support viable ideas from staff that improve patient care, while being financially sustainable.

When children become stressed before an operation it can delay surgery, or result in operations being cancelled; a problem that paediatricians nationwide face every day. The app’s design aim is to provide a better experience for anxious children and their families, while saving clinicians time and reducing anaesthetic drugs costs. When the whole experience is less painful, stressful it is more likely that the children’s procedure will be a success.

The idea for RELAX Anaesthetics, came from anaesthetists Peter Brooks and Corina Lee from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and was realised by Imagineear Ltd.

Andrew Nugée, Founder and CEO of Imagineear Ltd says:

“Understanding the vision of the consultants and translating that vision into a tool that helps young patients and theatre staff, not just at Chelsea & Westminster, but throughout the NHS has been a truly rewarding experience. Building the complex algorithms required in the code gave us a challenge that has been gratifying to fulfil. This work is part of an on-going partnership with CW+ and we are currently working on a number pioneering applications with them.”

Corina Lee says:

“We have been testing the tablet app for a number of months and to be creating this product to help children, families and staff is really exciting. The amount of time spent during induction of anaesthesia represents a significant proportion of the workload of the theatre, even in simple cases. With the prize money from this award we would like to roll it out to other hospitals.”

Every year, the hospital performs 5,189 operations on children. Anaesthetising children through cannulation (intravenously) is the preferred choice at £5 per child. The alternative method, gas inhalation, costs £13 per child. Currently the hospital is only able to use the cannulation method on 57% of children due to the stress and anxiety it causes them.

This new Android app can cater for children from 2 to 16 years old, providing art, music and games to help calm them at the touch of a button. It uses profiling information on patients to suggest the best content for each child.

The app has been tested across a range of patients in the hospital and is already proving effective. Kate, mum of six year old Rosa, who tried the app prior to surgery, says:

“It’s fantastic! It takes away the stress. Last year, for another operation, she had no distraction and was horrified. It took an hour and a half to get her down. This is amazing. This time her anaesthetic took just four minutes."

Research suggests that patients who become anxious before operations are more likely to have slower wound healing (Broadbent et al., 2003) and more complicated post-operative recovery (Johnston and Wallace,1990). The effectiveness of the tablet app will be analysed in a study which will measure length of time to be induced, number of intravenous attempts needed, success of intravenous induction, cost of induction agents (IV propofol vs inhalation sevoflurane), child anxiety, parent anxiety and satisfaction, and anaesthetist anxiety and satisfaction alongside qualitative data. This data will be collated in spring 2015.



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Imagineear Health is a Division of Imagineear Ltd, The Compton Rooms, Fulham Palace, Bishops Avenue, London SW6 6EA

Imagineear Ltd is registered in the United Kingdom No. 06887633

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