Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN UCEDD/LEND) Member Assists in Development of App to Ease Children's Fears of Clinic Visits

July 31, 2013

In order to ease patient anxieties and enable a smoother medical office visit, developmental medicine specialists working in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt have created a new app for the iPad that allows providers and parents to develop storyboards about common routines. MyRoutine launched in June and is currently available on iTunes.

The App was developed by Nirupama Madduri, M.D., Clinical Director at the Division of Developmental Medicine and a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN UCEDD) member, and David Crnobori, M.S.Ed., a behavior consultant at the Center. Madduri and Crnobori worked with Vanderbilt University Medical Center's interactive and Web development team to expand the repertoire of communications tools they use with patients with developmental disabilities and families.  

"Many of the children with disabilities who we see in our clinics have less stressful experiences when we use visual supports," said Madduri. "We started using hardcopy storyboards of typical medical procedures, which we shared with our patients prior to the exam. We noticed it made the exams more efficient. The kids were less anxious knowing what was coming next and they understood the procedures that were taking place. Our success with those storyboards led to the development of the MyRoutine app and we are absolutely thrilled about it."

Built into the app are photos of procedures in a medical visit, such as getting blood pressure checked, measuring height and weight, and having blood drawn. Parents can create a story with the images and can personalize the experience by importing their own photos and sounds. The children can even work toward rewards at the end of the story. While the app was originally developed to improve experiences in medical settings for children with autism, it can be used to storyboard routines beyond the exam room and is beneficial for children with and without a range of developmental concerns.  

"I recently had a parent crying in my office," said Madduri. "Her son had never before allowed a doctor to look in his ears. After using the app to outline that procedure, her son felt more confident to allow it. For children with communication challenges, relying solely on words to describe things may not always be the best approach. We want our children comfortable and don't want visits to our office to be a source of dread. Giving them more control over what is happening can only improve their experiences."

MyRoutine is available free for a limited time for the iPad via iTunes.