Andres Tennus

University of Tartu's research award: holograms that help children overcome the fear of hospitals

Tartu Ülikooli teadlaste uurimustöö: laste haiglahirmu vähendavad hologrammid.

University of Tartu's research award 2022 is for holograms that help children overcome the fear of hospitals and reduce pain levels. 


The recipient of the award is Associate Professor of Paediatric Neuropsychology Anneli Kolk with her work group. According to him, hospital fear is a big problem, because according to research, 91 percent of children are afraid of some medical procedure. "Younger children often rate their fear as greater than their pain. Medical fear can increase with age and cause avoidance of medicine in the future," said Kolk.

Holograms are one of the behavioral distraction techniques that are considered the most effective non-pharmacological techniques for reducing pain and fear. "Physical methods such as massage, hugging, and blowing balloons are also used on a daily basis and help," added Anneli Kolk.

The images shown to the child as holograms during the medical procedure can be both new and familiar characters that move and perform tricks. "These can be, for example, Sipsik, Lotte, and Super Mario, as well as racing cars, a magical forest, and a castle. What gives the innovation a special value is that the characters shown as holograms to children in Estonian hospitals speak Estonian," explained Anneli Kolk.

Anneli Kolk said that the various studies done with holograms have shown effective results in reducing children's fear of the hospital. "On a scale of 10, children's fear had decreased by 4 points. While before the level of fear was moderate or severe, after watching the holograms 50 percent of the children were without fear and 43 percent perceived mild stress. No one had a severe fear reaction."

Holograms are currently in use at the Kliinikum, Pärnu Hospital and Tallinn Children's Hospital. According to Anneli Kolk, it is also planned to use the child-like robot Pepper in the future to reduce children's fear of the hospital.

The research project has received support from the University of Tartu Feasibility Fund. In Anneli Kolk team there is: Junior Research Fellow in Paediatric Neurology Alina Roštšinskaja, Research Fellow of Paediatric Neuropsychology Marianne Saard, Psychologist at the Children's Clinic of Tartu University Hospital Liisa Uutsalu and students of the Faculty of Medicine Triinu-Liis Loit, Kätlin Kits and Christen Kööp. 


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