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Videoconferencing reported to reduce stress among hospitalized children

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Frequently, hospitalized patients appreciate visits from friends and relatives; in addition, children may be particularly distressed by the hospital environment and disconnection between loved ones. However, not uncommonly, a visitor will arrive when the patient is off having a procedure, the patient may have limited access for reasons such as isolation policies, or a person simply may not have the time available to make the visit. Patient-visitor contact can be greatly improved with videoconferencing. A new study evaluated how well the technology reduced stress among hospitalized children. The findings were published online on June 30 in the journal Pediatrics.

The study authors explained that Family-Link is a videoconferencing program, which allows hospitalized children and their parents to virtually visit family members and friends using laptops, webcams, and a secure Wi-Fi connection. They assessed the association of Family-Link use on the reduction of stress experienced by children during hospitalization.

The researchers offered Family-Link to pediatric patients who had an expected length of hospitalization of four or more days. They measured the stress levels of hospitalized children at admission and discharge using a previously published Parental Stress Survey. They conducted a statistical analysis to assess the relationship between the use of Family-Link and stress experienced by children during hospitalization.

The study group comprised 367 children: 232 Family-Link users and 135 non–Family-Link users. Using a score matching method, they found that the use of Family-Link was significantly associated with a greater reduction in overall average stress compared with non–Family-Link users among the group of patients who lived closer to the hospital and had shorter lengths of hospitalization. In this group, the overall reduction in stress was 37% greater among Family-Link users than non–Family-Link users.

The authors concluded that the use of videoconferencing by some hospitalized children and families to conduct virtual visits with family and friends outside of the hospital was associated with a larger reduction in stress during hospitalization than those who did not use videoconferencing.

The researchers are affiliated with the University of California Davis Children’s Hospital (Sacramento, California), the Center for Health and Technology, University of California Davis Health System, University of California Davis (Sacramento, California, and the Department of Pediatrics, University of California Irvine School of Medicine (Irvine, California).