August 2014 – According to a new study, the ability to videochat with family and friends might help relieve stress among some hospitalized kids.
The “virtual visits” seemed to help kids who lived closest to the hospital and were hospitalized for the shortest amount of time, an average of five days.
Before starting the research project, the videoconferencing program has been used at the University of California Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento and received positive feedbacks on improved children’s stress and other mental symptoms after using it.
For the study itself, the researchers gave videoconferencing program to 232 kids who were expected to be in the hospital for at least four days. The study also included 135 similar kids who did not get the program.
Each family filled out two surveys, one in the first few days of the child’s hospitalization and the other within two days of discharge.The surveys were meant to measure stress and asked about the child’s behavior, emotions and appearance. All of the kids’ stress levels went down after they left the hospital.
Among children who lived an average of 35 miles from the hospital and were hospitalized for roughly five days, stress levels fell 37 percent more for the group with the program than for the kids without it.
Almost all of the videoconference users were satisfied with the program, and 71 percent of parents said the program helped kids stay in touch with their family and friends more than usual.
Hospital-provided videoconferencing services could help supplement in-person family visits.Even if families are allowed to stay in the hospital with their child, there are barriers to that if they have other children at home or aren’t financially able to take off from work. Moreover, while parents generally make frequent in-person visits, friends who may otherwise not visit could use this videoconferencing program.
In-person visits really can help patients recover, and “virtual visits” are likely to be nearly as good, the research proves.Reduced stress levels in their turn may even lead to earlier hospital discharges.
Though many kids have cell phones and may Skype or FaceTime their families and friends anyway, videoconference options are important too because the more options family members have to stay connected the better. Different options work for different people.
Hospital also use a webcam system for new parents to watch their babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, which has been very successful, and other groups, including adult cancer patients, would welcome this option.