Games in Healthcare

Biofeedback Technology Provides Relief to Young Patients

Biofeedback in UseThe Kosair Children’s Hospital is armed with a "coping cart", a multimedia centre on wheels helping patients feel better. Filled with toys and books, video recording capabilities and a video library, it mainly features a biofeedback unit proven to help them relax.

The Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, KY, helps children living with conditions ranging from cancer and heart disease to organ transplants to chronic illness. Since July 2007, patients have a new set of tools to help them. Funded by the Kentucky Psychological Association Foundation, the coping cart can visit the bedside of patients as young as 9 years old teaching them anxiety-management skills through biofeedback. Read More...

Biofeedback is a technology which allows people to improve their health using the signals from their own bodies. Biofeedback techology is rather common, even in your home - thermometers, bathroom scales, blood pressure monitors for example. For patients, biofeedback machines allow them to "see" or "hear" activity inside their bodies.

The unit in the hospital's coping cart has been giving young patiens a deep insight on their breathing and heart rate. Through simple video game programs, they can see their body's responses, teaching them to relax.

One program displays images of a bow and arrow aimed at a target. The arrow rises and falls according to the child’s level of relaxation, in relation to his pulse and breathing rates. Too tense and the arrow will miss, teaching him control.

“The technology can give them feedback on even subtle changes in whatever parameters you’re looking at, and helps kids to see that what they’re doing is making a difference,” said Dr. Bryan D. Carter, a pediatric psychologist at Kosair and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, to The News and Tribune.

Another game has for goal to float a balloon across a landscape using relaxed breathing. As a result, it reduces anxiety and stress. As muscles relax, their pain sensitivity decreases and exert less pressure on surrounding nerves.

“My old biofeedback unit looked like a huge scientific machine and had electrodes that were cumbersome to attach. These devices are a lot easier to use and more fun and playful than looking at graphs." said Carter. “With the friendlier interface of the graphics, the kids catch on pretty quickly.”

And the results are real, believes Gloria Falls, a 67 year old cancer survivor and biofeedback enthusiast. “Once you get into the routine, you can’t get rid of it,” she said. “It becomes a lifestyle, and your body knows what you need to do.”