Advances in medicine have led to vastly improved survival rates for once life-threatening pediatric illnesses. But every year, more than 6 million children are hospitalized in the United States. Although designed to have positive physical effects, many medical interventions are painful and upsetting for children, often causing short-and long-term psychological distress. In fact, the incidence of emotional problems resulting from hospital experiences has been reported from 10% to 30% for severe psychological distress. The combination of physical and psychological distress can cause healthcare-induced trauma and lead to challenges like procedural delays or cancellations, missed dosages of critical medications, and flat-out refusal to seek follow-up care.
A new program addresses the connection between children's psychological well-being and their ability to heal. By employing a behavioral economics approach to medical adherence, children and adolescents are rewarded for navigating all the steps necessary to successfully complete procedures that can be painful and stress-inducing, such as MRI, or PICC line, and NG tube placement. With the aid of a colorful game board and removable stickers that feature superheroes undergoing each of the relevant procedural steps, patients can map out what they need to do – recognizing the completion of each step with an "I Did It!" sticker. Post-procedure, the patient has a completed game board and the chance to pick out an awesome reward.