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UI introduces tool to de-stress young patients through distraction

Distraction in action.PNG

After more than two decades worth of research and development, medical professionals at the University of Iowa are unveiling a web-based tool aimed at reducing stress in young patients.

The resource, called the Distraction in Action Tool (DAT), uses survey answers to formulate an estimate of a patient's distress level at the doctor's office (DistrEstimate), thereby determining which approaches are most appropriate in managing anxiety during hospital visits.

The tool provides parents with basic information on improving their child's experience at the doctor's office, as well as suggestions for music, games, and other apps to distract in stressful situations (shots and other painful medical procedures).

"Eighty percent of parents said (during feasibility testing) they want to be able to help, but they didn't really feel like they had the tools and the instructions to be able to do that effectively," said Kirsten Hanrahan, a nurse practitioner who was a visionary for the resource. "If we give you some training and basic instructions, then you're able to provide distraction at a higher quality, which then is more effective in decreasing the child's risk for distress."

Akin to toys in the waiting room of the doctor's or dentist's office, Hanrahan said this tool is unique in that its post-survey analysis and suggestions are individualized and based on data compiled on more than 1,000 kids and parents.

"The results are tailored specifically to your kid," said Hanrahan.

The tool's creation was inspired by Dr. Ann Marie McCarthy's experiences treating patients.

"We just held the kids down," said McCarthy, describing the approach nurses implemented when dealing with unruly kids.

McCarthy said she hated restraining children to administer shots, calling the experience traumatic for the patients.

One of the tool's primary aims is to reduce the aversion to hospital visits for young patients, which hospital staff said will improve healthcare rates as adults won't be as likely to associate negative experiences with hospitals and clinics.

The Distraction in Action Tool was "soft launched about a month ago," being officially unveiled in early March.

The team of researchers who contributed to the tool include Kirsten Hanrahan, Ann Marie McCarthy, Charmaine Kleiber, and Ben Miller.

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