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Starship, ASB and Rush Digital unite to make hospital visits less scary

Auckland’s Starship Hospital has had its children’s emergency department renovated. And aside from a spiffy new look designed to make hospitals less scary, it also boasts New Zealand hospital-first interactive tech that other medical facilities would do well to include, too.

Each year, about 34,000 children come to Starship Children’s Emergency Department (CED) – with the first place they visit usually the assessment area and waiting room. But here’s the problem: waiting rooms are often places of complete, and utter, dread; it’s still a hospital, after all, and no-one wants to be in a hospital if they had any other choice.

Starship staff are well aware of this, of course, and saw an opportunity to use interactive technology to help distract children and prepare them for treatment, as well as create a more accommodating space for patient comfort and flow. ASB came on board to provide financial assistance and, along with the help of their customers and digital engineering studio Rush Digital (responsible for building the technology behind the interactive walls in the revamped area), helped bring the idea life.

The space introduces New Zealand hospital-first interactive technology, created in consultation with young patients, to calm nervous patients and their whānau when they visit the hospital. This includes two new design features: the “Starship Animal Check-ups” and the “Magic Forest.”

“Starship Animal Check-ups” is a wall of frames featuring different characters to take children through check-up experiences, familiarising them with what they themselves will soon do with doctors and nurses. Jungle characters such as lions teach children to open their mouths wide, meerkats demonstrate different heart rates, and blowfish help to coach different breathing rhythms.

“Magic Forest” is an avatar scene experience creating a calming space to relax and enjoy quiet time. In this space, virtual birds and flowers react to interaction; if a person moves slowly, the flowers and birds will come towards them, where if the person moves too quickly they’ll be scared off.

Dr Mike Shepherd, director of Starship Medical and Community, says: “The assessment and waiting area is the hub of the Starship children’s emergency department, where children and their families are triaged, assessed and spend time being observed and waiting for results and procedures. The refurbishment means a better experience for our patients and their families and a more effective work space for our staff.”

ASB and its customers have committed $1 million to the Starship Foundation for the renovation.

ASB chief executive Vittoria Shortt says: “The unique ‘Starship Animal Check-Ups’ and ‘Magic Forest’ spaces are the result of a truly collaborative effort between ASB, the Starship Foundation, Starship staff and patients and we believe they will help children progress in their journey towards health.”

Nurse unit manager for Starship’s CED Anna-Marie Grace says: “On average our team treats 100 children per day who arrive requiring care in the emergency department – from fixing broken arms to the resuscitation of a very sick child. The new layout will improve flow and comfort, making it easier for our team to triage patients; while the digital interaction distracts children as they wait for treatment.”

Starship’s new CED was officially revealed at an event at Starship on Thursday morning.

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