Seven-year-old Rehan Bostan wasn’t thinking too much about why he was at the Peace Arch Hospital emergency department with his mom Priya Singh Monday morning, thanks to a virtual-reality experience introduced by Dr. Amir Behboudi. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Virtual reality eases ER visits: Peace Arch doctor

Dr. Amir Behboudi introduces robot named Pepper to assist with young patients

An emergency room doctor at Peace Arch Hospital is taking a new approach to treating kids in the ER – virtual-reality technology and an interactive robot dubbed Pepper.

Dr. Amir Behboudi said he started using virtual-reality headsets with children while giving them stitches, and found the distraction took their focus away from the pain.

“Our ultimate goal is to have a pain-free ER,” Behboudi told Peace Arch News, during an interview at the hospital Monday morning.

“So we don’t inflict pain” on an already painful experience.

Behboudi, a Langley father of two who has worked at PAH for the past eight years, put his idea into practise a year ago, when he stitched a young girl’s chin while she watched a roller-coaster simulation on a virtual-reality headset.

Prior to putting the headset on, the girl was crying, Behboudi said. Once she was engaged in the simulation, however, “she was smiling and laughing.”

“We can take their attention away from the pain with VR,” Behboudi said in a news release issued earlier Monday. “We know that distraction works. The brain can get fooled when multiple inputs are coming in.”

Behboudi told PAN that three studies are underway at BC Children’s Hospital – a partnership with children’s pain specialist Dr. Ran Goldman – examining the impact of using virtual-reality technology during laceration repair, lab tests and IV insertion and lesion removal.

So far, they’ve shown it “significantly reduces anxiety and makes the procedures more fun,” he said.

Its effectiveness during treatments for injuries such as sprains is anticipated to be the subject of a Peace Arch Hospital study starting next year, he added.

Behboudi described the use of virtual-reality technology as an affordable investment that improves the ER experience for all involved – kids, parents and doctors. And, “it’s fun.”

He noted a study done at Harvard found that half of kids treated at the ER using the technology “truly believed they were on (the roller-coaster).”

Priya Singh said it certainly changed the morning for her son, Rehan Bostan, Monday. She brought the seven-year-old to PAH for stomach pain, and said the virtual-reality headset made a huge difference. He stopped complaining of pain almost immediately and was clearly fascinated by the view that was unfolding only for him.

“Are you going up and down?” Behboudi asked the youngster, who nodded in response.

“Just watch for the balls, there’s going to be balls falling off on you. Look up, way up, way up.”

READ MORE: Peace Arch Hospital ER expansion plans expand

Behboudi’s own excitement at the initiative was obvious.

“He’s coming here with some sort of pain,” Behboudi said of Rehan. Add the headset to the picture and, he’s “just sitting, eating a popsicle.”

“How amazing is that?”

At a cost of approximately $20 for a headset, paired with a basic $200 smartphone that is loaded with free VR experience apps, Behboudi said it is “a no-brainer” to use it with a child patient – or any patient, for that matter, and he hopes the practise will one day expand to include adult patients.

“Anybody,” he said. “That’s the goal.”

Meanwhile, Pepper helps take the edge off of the emergency-room experience for children and families in the waiting room.

The white droid is about three feet tall, with arms and hands, and eyes that actually look at whoever “she” is interacting with. A touch screen on her chest displays options including ‘Freestyle’ and ‘Take a selfie,’ and Pepper will talk and dance with her conversation partner.

“This is one of my favourites,” Pepper tells Behboudi after he selects ‘Freestyle.’

Behboudi said in addition to the dance options, Pepper’s program also includes education components on things such as flu season, and seatbelt safety.

And while virtual-reality technology is now in use at every Fraser Health hospital, Behboudi said Pepper’s presence at Peace Arch is unique – built in Japan, she is the only such robot in use at a B.C. emergency department.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Dr. Amir Behboudi asks Pepper to do “something fun,” during a demonstration at Peace Arch Hospital Monday morning. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Just Posted

UPDATED: Surrey RCMP make multiple arrests after reports of fight in Newton

Huge police response to reports of fight, possibly a gun, in the area of 82nd Avenue east of Scott Road

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

Panorama Ridge Secondary reports third COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Surrey youth protest throne speech as part of Global Day of Action

Group marched to Liberal MP Randeep Sarai’s constituency office

White Rock writer in running for $6,000 accolade

Joseph Kakwinokanasum to learn Oct. 1 if his story, Ray Says, wins CBC Nonfiction Prize

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read