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How to reduce patient stress and pain during vaccination

A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics examined the reasons for vaccine delays and found that three-quarters of surveyed doctors said parents postponed shots over concerns about their children’s discomfort.  

For these parents and children, help may be on the way.

Virtually calm

A recent pilot study done by Sansum Clinic doctors showed that patients who viewed ocean scenes through virtual reality (VR) goggles during vaccination felt less stress than those who received their shots without the high-tech glasses.

The idea for the practice enhancement project occurred when Dr.  Mark Silverberg, Sansum Clinic pediatric ophthalmologist, noticed frequent apprehension in young patients who connected visiting any medical office with painful shots. All too often he would be asked by a crying toddler, “Am I getting a shot today?

He discussed the problem with his 15-year-old daughter, Zoe, who suggested the use of virtual reality goggles as a possible solution. The father-daughter team brought their idea to Dr. John LaPuma, a board certified internist and proponent of exercising in nature for stress reduction. The three put the pilot project together.  

The pilot study

The pilot study conducted in September and November of 2016 at Sansum Clinic locations in Santa Barbara and Lompoc, CA compared children who used VR goggles during vaccination to those who received their vaccine in the traditional fashion.

Nearly half of the children—112 of 244—used Turbot 3D virtual reality goggles when receiving their seasonal flu shot. Those using the VR goggles reported 48% less pain than those without them. Surveyed parents whose children used the VR goggles during the vaccinations noted their sons or daughters experienced 48% less pain and 52% less fear.

Sansum Clinic staff reported that children who used the VR goggles had 75% less pain, and exhibited 71% less fear. “We were fairly impressed with the numbers. They definitely show that the VR goggles facilitated the vaccination process for kids, parents and staff,” said Dr. Silverberg.

Simple solution to a potentially dangerous situation

The consequences of putting off shots are serious, says Dr.  Silverberg.  “It’s a shame to think of kids going unvaccinated simply because of the stress. We were looking for a simple, inexpensive remedy.”

The physician and father of three, who has been recognized repeatedly by Castle Connelly as one of America’s Top Doctors, will present the results of the pilot project at the World Summit of Pediatrics in Rome in June of 2017.

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