Going to the doctor is rarely an enjoyable experience for children or their parents.
"Hospitals, even bright and friendly hospitals like this one, can put children on edge, especially if they are here for a procedure that might involve some discomfort," said Margaret Fullerton with Alberta Children's Hospital.
The hospital has a new piece of technology to help young patients deal with the stress and anxiety of medical procedures — a two-foot tall child-like robot named MEDi.
MEDi, or Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence, is designed to help distract patients with small talk and high-fives.
"He helps you through the procedures, tells you what's going to happen in a kid-friendly way and just helps you through it," said nine-year-old Aidan Sousa. "Then afterward you get to play with him."
50% less pain
A recent study conducted by Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary explored how the robot helped children through their seasonal flu vaccinations.
The study showed children who used MEDi reported 50 per cent less pain compared to those who received their shot with little or no distraction.
"There were several kids who couldn't be vaccinated because they were kicking, punching and biting and the nurses walked away and said they couldn't vaccinate these kids and they all agreed to be calmly vaccinated with MEDi," said Dr. Tanya Beran, the robot's creator.
MEDi robots have been tested in Calgary for almost three years. They are the first hospital in Canada to have access to the technology. They currently have four robots that are used throughout the hospital.
But soon, other hospitals may be getting little robot friends of their own — Sick Kids in Toronto has already expressed interest in getting MEDi to use in their oncology unit.