BrightHearts helps kids manage pain and anxiety

In a pilot study published by Pain Practice, the biofeedback relaxation app BrightHearts was found to help most young patients cope better with the pain and anxiety of procedures.

Using a wearable heart rate sensor* (Bluetooth 4.0 standard), a patient can change the colourful geometric images displayed on the iPad screen by controlling their breathing.

The patterns change according to the patient’s changing pulse rate. Children learn to relax and slow down their heart rate. The app provides a distraction and helps children gain a greater sense of control over their own body.

BrightHearts is the result of ground-breaking collaboration between innovative artist George Khut and Dr. Angie Morrow, staff specialist in Kids Rehab and senior lecturer in paediatrics and child health at The Children's Hospital at Westmead and The University of Sydney.

"BrightHearts taps into children's interest in devices like smartphones and tablets," said Dr. Morrow. "Biofeedback is a modality that we hope will empower children and help them to manage their pain and anxiety without the need for medications.”

Artist and UNSW lecturer, George Khut designed the artwork featured on the app and since 2010 has been an innovator in exploring how electronic art and interaction design can be used to help sick children.

The patient cohort for the study underwent one of three medical procedures: peripheral blood collection, botulinum toxin injection, or intravenous cannula insertion.

The researchers observed or received feedback from patients, parents, and healthcare professionals, while satisfaction from these three parties was measured through surveys.

The study shows that 83 percent of patients said that they found the relaxation app helpful and would use it again, all of the parents and 96 percent of healthcare professionals also said they would use BrightHearts again. Sixty-four percent of the clinicians said it allowed them to perform the procedure more easily.

* Not compatible with Apple Watch or FitBit devices.