Get Well Soon and Catch ‘Em All: Children’s Hospital Embraces Pokémon Go
Technology| | By Valerie Cools
Hospitals are often no fun, especially for child patients. But staff members at one hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan are trying to brighten up the place by encouraging kids to play Pokémon Go.
J.J. Bouchard is the digital media manager at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan. His job is to explore the ways technology can improve patients’ lives and healing. Pokémon Go, the insanely popular augmented reality mobile game, seemed like a natural way to go. In fact, Bouchard told Today he didn’t even have to sell the idea to the staff: people spontaneously brought it up to him.
“It was really exciting to see the whole staff embrace it,” said Bouchard. “So then we moved forward with educating everyone, outlining safety guidelines and establishing our own protocol.”
While therapeutic gaming has long been used to help with patients’ physical and psychological rehabilitation, the social aspect of Pokémon Go makes it especially great for child patients: Not only is the game encouraging them to get out of bed and walk around, but kids have been interacting with each other more, taking pictures of each other with the pokémon they find.
Jamie Mayo, a rehabilitation engineer at Mott, says Pokémon Go is unique in the way it creates a gateway into a fantasy world that is still grounded in reality. Rather than simply providing kids with an escape, it makes the hospital itself more pleasant for them.
“I think one of the unique things about the game itself is that you can totally enter a new world, but still see yourself,” she told Today. “It really normalizes the hospital experience for these kids. It distracts them from painful procedures, and lets them escape from what may be a scary environment for them.”
Because the game is so popular everywhere, it helps the patients feel connected to the outside world.
“They’re all hearing about the game from their friends at home, and now they feel like this is something they can participate in, too,” said Mayo.
While other institutions, including hospitals, have complained that Pokémon Go is a nuisance, there’s no doubt it’s making a positive difference for at least some kids.