Medicine on children's terms

A new app is proving its worth in reaching children when conversations can be difficult.

The iTui app was developed by Waitematā District Health Board (DHB) paediatrician Dr Maneesh Deva with the help of IBM NZ, the Health Innovation Hub, Unitec, AUT and the Waitemata DHB.
“Our current method of interacting and understanding a child’s perspective remains problematic. Asking a child questions face to face can be very awkward, confusing and distressing for a child ,” says Dr Deva.

“We think iTui can improve that – for everyone involved – because allows the child to lead the interaction in a play based manner- i.e where there are no mistakes.”

“By using different images and drawing the clinician and the child can explore different thoughts and feelings”

ITui uses a set of customisable images the child can use to describe their experience while the health professional sits alongside the child, something Dr Deva describes as much less threatening than face-to-face questioning.

In this way, Dr Deva says they obtain richer information from the child than what’s in a referral file. This helps with understanding the child’s perspective and developing a better plan for the child and all the agencies involved.

“Feedback from children – who are today’s super-users – is instant, so you find out very quickly if the technology is working for them and what needs to be changed.”

Dr Deva and his team collect only the analytics to refine ITui. “We can see if they like this image. That one should be smaller. This one should be blue. That sort of thing. The plan is each use of the App by a child will inform subsequent versions.”

Dr Deva also works with engineering students who spend a week in the hospital, observing clinician/patient activity.

“Engineers are very good at creating solutions and we now have a child-friendly silicone syringe and a hand hygiene sensor, and we’re working with AUT on a non-wearable, heart rate monitor for infants.”
Dr Deva says there’s no reason why New Zealand can’t lead the world with this type of innovation.

“We have expertise, capability and the patients who are often readily accepting of health innovations” .”

This is where organisations such as MedTech CoRE are very helpful. “Networking is critical to delivering new technology, and MedTech CoRE has been valuable in forming those links to sector partners such as academics and investors.”

The results of the iTui trial will be released at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Congress in May 2019.

By Prue Scott

Maneesh Deva