Written by Veronika Bradley, Editor for Children’s Health and Safety Association – February 26, 2015 - Republished by Diligencia Investigative Reporting – April 2019
MEDi helps children manage their fear of pain by turning a negative reaction into a positive and happy result.
MEDi is an adorable, charismatic, companion and pain coach who stands 60 cm tall, speaks in 20 languages, gives ‘high fives’, tells jokes and stories, walks, dances, mimics children’s movements, makes eye contact and plays music! Gosh, to be a kid again!
MEDi, or Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence, was created by Aldebaran Robotics in Paris, France and developed by Dr. Tanya Beran, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of RxRobots Inc. in Calgary, Alberta. MEDi’s primary function is to alleviate children’s fears and anxieties during medical procedures, such as injections, stitches, blood tests, fractures and EEGs.
The Alberta Children’s Hospital and University of Calgary completed a study involving 57 children (aged four to nine years) who experienced a moderate to severe fear of needles. The study found that children who interacted with robots experienced 50% less pain compared to those who received injections with little or no distraction. It’s important to note that at prior medical visits many of these children, who suffered from chronic medical conditions, would vomit, faint, run out of the building or need to be restrained.
MEDi instructs children to breathe deeply and relax before, during and after their injections. The study found that children recovered almost immediately from their vaccinations as opposed to the 20 to 30 minute recovery time.
“MEDi is the first robot to help children manage medical procedures,” says Dr. Tanya Beran, professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary’s School of Medicine and Principal Investigator of the study.
Robotics and artificial intelligence are rapidly becoming mainstay partners in the healthcare system.
MEDi helps children manage their fear of pain by turning a negative chain of reactions into a positive and happy result.
“Studies show that many children experience extreme distress before and during procedures because they don’t know if an x-ray or EEG test will hurt,” adds Beran.
MEDi’s behaviours are sequenced to work at the same pace as the healthcare professional who is conducting the medical procedure. From the beginning to the end of a procedure MEDi:
- welcomes children, teaches coping strategies and provides encouragement
- is choreographed to give the right advice at just the right moment
- watches the child and responds to the child’s actions during the procedure
“Children who experience distress in a medical environment are less likely to access health care in adulthood, so it’s important to find ways to reduce pain during paediatric care,” says Dr. Beran, as reported in The New York Times.
If you think that MEDi’s charm and fascination will wear off because of repeated use - think again. MEDi has numerous capabilities to perform different functions at each visit with a child. Every interaction is unique.
Most parents are nervous for their children in medical environments because the unexpected has every possibility of rearing its head. Children are perceptive, smart, and able to pick up on their parent’s anxiety, which causes them to become nervous as well. MEDi improves the dynamic between child and parent with comforting words so they can ease their fears together.
The creators of MEDi are presently enhancing personalized interactions with facial recognition software and capabilities to greet a child by name.
As a psychologist and professor, Dr. Beran has conducted considerable research in child health publishing the ‘first studies in the world’ on how robots impact children’s health. The RxRobots team are complementing MEDi with additional programming for twenty procedures such as IV starts, blood transfusions, catheter insertion, X-rays, MRIs, chemotherapy, surgery, dental, physical rehabilitation, Botox injections, dressings, post-op ambulation, oxygen tube insertion, electroencephalograms, photonics stimulation and cast cutting.
“Nurses and parents have requested MEDi for non-painful procedures including x-rays because they are distressing procedures for children,” said Dr. Beran.
Just how successful is MEDi?
Dentists, public health clinics, diagnostics and labs are inquiring about using MEDi in their environments and the Hospital for Sick Children has expressed interest in getting MEDi for its oncology unit.
Thank you Dr. Tanya Beran. You’re brilliant!
New Generation of Teachers - In the coastal city of Masan in South Korea, elementary school children are taught English by the newest generation of teachers – a robot named EngKeye that is specifically designed to help young children with learning disabilities such as autism and ADHD.
Future Forward and Fabulous - Medtech’s robotic assistant, ROSA™, enables surgeons to perform complex brain surgeries for diseases such as epilepsy, brain tumours, Parkinson’s, generalized dystonia and endoscopic procedures with greater ease, accuracy and safety without compromising established surgical protocols. This not only benefits patients but also heightens the medical possibilities of the healthcare system to a future-forward reality where innovative technologies play an ever increasing and valuable role.
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