How Technology Can Improve Pediatric Health Care

By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief,
Twitter: @rehackmagazine

New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are becoming much more prevalent in the health care, medical and scientific research industries.

For example, medical industry leaders are leveraging AI in several ways. Physicians, researchers and scientists can use AI to improve diagnoses, find better treatment and therapy options for patients and facilitate efficient administrative tasks.

In the pediatric health care sector, caring for young infants, toddlers and children is the top priority. However, tech adoption has lagged in recent years — until now.

How Technology Improves Pediatric Health Care

As more advanced technologies emerge, more applications for those technologies come into play. For example, a breakthrough in mRNA vaccinology allowed researchers and scientists to create the COVID-19 vaccine, which was imperative once the global pandemic became the new norm. Without new technologies, public health would suffer dramatically.

Pediatric health care is a complex field, especially if young patients are dealing with chronic conditions. What are some ways technology can improve patient outcomes in pediatric health care?

Telehealth and Telemedicine

The importance of telehealth and telemedicine became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic and played an integral role in the continuity of care for millions of patients. In addition to attending virtual appointments for physical health conditions, children and their families can participate in telehealth therapy sessions to treat mental health conditions.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more children than ever are experiencing mental health issues. In October 2022, President Joe Biden announced he would prioritize the expansion of the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Awards Program. This new funding for the program would add telehealth services to bring expert mental health care directly to pediatric care providers.

Interactive Patient Engagement Technology

It’s normal for young patients to get anxious or stressed while undergoing treatment. Several children’s hospitals, such as Sanford Children’s, Children’s Memorial Hermann and Children’s Minnesota, are using interactive patient engagement technology to offer entertainment and distractions for patients undergoing medical procedures or treatments.

SONIFI Health offers patient engagement technology with a few different solutions. For example, patients can use an interactive TV platform, listen to celebrity book readings and watch physicians do magic tricks. These activities can help children enjoy time spent in a hospital, which would otherwise be anxiety provoking, overwhelming and stressful.

Mobile Applications

There’s an app for just about everything these days, so it’s no surprise that more medical and health care-related apps are coming to the forefront. Apps can help parents review their children’s health records and access additional information. For example, the CDC has an app called Milestone Tracker, which provides checklists parents can complete to ensure their children are developing properly from 2 to 5 years old.

Another app booming in pediatric health care right now is SoftSpot. It’s an FDA-cleared and HIPAA-compliant app powered by AI and computer vision (CV) technology. The goal of the app is to measure newborns’ skulls to detect cases of plagiocephaly or brachycephaly. Doctors can use the app to monitor a baby’s skull. They can treat the child immediately if early intervention is necessary, often with helmet therapy.

Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR)

Virtual and augmented reality tech is commonly associated with the gaming industry. However, it’s also becoming helpful for health care providers. VR and AR technology can help calm patients during stressful times. One study found that 79% of patients were highly engaged with VR and 92% of parents agreed that VR effectively calmed their children.

VR provides immersive experiences for patients, which can help relieve some of the negative feelings associated with receiving medical treatment. AR can also give children fun gaming experiences to get their minds off of their chronic conditions.

Leveraging Technology to Improve Pediatric Health Care

Pediatric health care is an essential specialty in the modern medical field. It’s crucial that young children and their families can have the best health care experiences, especially if their children are struggling with chronic or acute health conditions. Technology will continue playing a critical role in the evolution of pediatric health care in years to come.