Virtual visits linked to decreased stress in hospitalized children

Hospitalized pediatric patients who used videoconferencing equipment to communicate with family and friends experienced a 37% reduction in overall stress, as compared to those who did not engage in videoconferencing. 

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: The hospital experience for pediatric patients is fraught with anxiety and stress, which have a negative effect on health. Because the support of family and friends during these times is associated with decreased physiological stress, videoconferencing has been introduced as an option for patients to “visit” with family and friends who are not physically present. This is the first study to systematically measure the effects of videoconferencing on the emotional well-being of pediatric patients. Patients and their families were asked to complete surveys assessing their levels of stress and were given the option of using free videoconferencing equipment, called Family-Link, during their hospital stay. Due to the lack of random assignment to the Family-Link program, cohorts were stratified based on propensity scores. In the cohort with the lowest propensity score, use of videoconferencing was associated with a significantly greater reduction in overall mean stress compared with the non-videoconferencing group. Though this is the first study to attempt to quantify the relative success of videoconferencing, it is limited by the narrow scope of confounding variables for which it controlled.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Baby CareLink: using the internet and telemedicine to improve care for high-risk infants 

Study Author, Dr. Nikki H. Yang, DVM, MPVM, talks to 2 Minute Medicine: University of California Davis, Department of Pediatrics, Center for Health and Technology.

“With technological advancements, videoconferencing may/will provide the same standard of medical services to patients compared to those seeing doctors in person. In our study, use of videoconferencing by hospitalized children and families was associated with greater reductions in stress compared to those who did not use videoconferencing.” 

In-Depth [prospective cohort study]: This study followed 367 pediatric patients and their families staying at least 4 days at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in California between February 2011 and February 2013. Of these, 63.2% utilized the Family-Link (FL) videoconferencing system, which was made available to all subjects, free of charge. Those that did not utilize the services still completed the pre- and post-hospital stress surveys. These surveys measured children’s stress levels on a 6-point Likert scale in several domains. Due to the non-random participation in the FL program, propensity scores for each family were calculated based on patient age, length of hospitalization, and distance to the hospital. Three cohorts were created based on low, medium, and high propensity scores (.58, .66 and .88, respectively). Overall, there was a 37% greater reduction in mean stress among FL users compared to non-users. In the low propensity score cohort, use of FL was significantly associated with greater reductions in overall mean stress by .23 points (CI = 95%).

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Image: PD

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