Virtual tour through Sophia Children’s Hospital helps anxious children

Communicating with children works differently than with adults. We are all familiar with the examples of child marketing where commercial communication is aimed at children to increase the recognisability or appeal of often unhealthy products. But it can also be done differently. Child-friendly content can help alleviate fear of a hospital visit. The online specialists of USG Marketing & Communications dove in and developed ‘Joep’s adventure’ for the Erasmus MC Sophia Children’s Hospital.

Fearful children

Every year, approximately 6,000 children undergo an operation under general anesthesia at the Erasmus MC Sophia Children’s Hospital. According to Erasmus MC Sophia, approximately 70 percent of the children are afraid of this procedure, which also creates a stressful situation for the parents. Children who are anxious cry more and cooperate less well after surgery than children who are less afraid. More anxiety also leads to more pain after surgery and possibly more pain relief. The recovery of children who are anxious is less successful than children who have no anxiety. But how do you take away children’s fears? The Friends of the Sophia Foundation asked USG Marketing & Communications to help answer this question and develop a solution.

Less fear through virtual tour

Researchers expect anxious children to enter the surgery more relaxed if they take a virtual tour of the rooms beforehand. In this way, children can discover and view the different rooms in the hospital at their own pace and thus prepare themselves emotionally for what is to come. This was the starting point for a number of USG Marketing & Communications brainstorming sessions with the agency ‘FX Agency’. This gave rise to the idea ‘Joep’s adventure’, an interactive and child-friendly virtual reality tour based on 360-degree photography of different rooms in the Sophia Children’s Hospital.

Children’s advisory council for determining exciting rooms

The Sophia Children’s Hospital has more than 250 rooms where patients come. From not exciting at all to very exciting. But how do you determine what an exciting room is for children? During the development of the concept, the Children’s Advisory Council of Erasmus MC Sophia was involved in this. The Children’s Advisory Council is formed by patients and former patients, brothers, sisters and friends of patients. These children regularly visit the hospital and therefore know very well what it is like in the hospital and what can be improved. In order to determine the most exciting rooms, 15 different rooms were submitted to the Children’s Advisory Council with the request to make a selection that they feared most. Ultimately, the 10 most exciting rooms came out.

The most exciting rooms

If you have never been to a hospital it is of course very exciting to go inside for the first time. The central hall is therefore the first exciting room in ‘Joep’s adventure’. This is followed by the puncture room, ultrasound room, CT scan, plaster room and ECG room. These are all rooms that many children have to deal with before an operation and of which they have no idea what is going to happen there. Not surprising that they find it exciting. These rooms are followed by more exciting rooms that they see before, during and after the operation. In other words, the entrance to the operating room, preparation room, operating room, operating room and recovery room.

Joep’s adventure

‘Joep’s adventure’ takes children virtually through the Sophia Children’s Hospital. Character Joep is ill and is therefore already visiting the Sophia. He comes into all kinds of special rooms. Children discover the special children’s hospital together with Joep. So that they know what it looks like before they go inside themselves. But a virtual tour without an explanation of what can be seen remains only a simple representation of spaces. To create more understanding among children of what to expect in the different treatment rooms, Joep has a sweet bear and elephant who ‘tell’ special facts about the rooms. Superaapje also tells about these rooms, where you can look around all the way. From ceiling to floor. With ‘Joep’s adventure’, children and parents can prepare a visit to the hospital at home, so that it becomes less exciting.

Texts for children

We started this story by saying that communicating with children works differently than with adults. Writing understandable texts for children is really different from pure writing at B1 level. During the development of ‘Joep’s adventure’, the texts were therefore presented to the Psychosocial Care department of the Sophia Children’s Hospital.

Communication and approach to children in understandable language and in a way that is tailored to them is of great importance. This makes the child feel seen and heard, which increases control. Positive or neutral language can also reduce stress and pain. You give the child the space for their own experience. – Josette Versteegh, clinical psychologist / psychotherapist and Nicole Ackermans, pedagogical counselor.

The staff of the Psychosocial Care department offer, among other things, help and support in the psychosocial development of sick children and are experts in how the brain of children works. Psychosocial Care has read and edited all texts where necessary.

The success of Joep

‘Joep’s adventure’ has now been available to children for over a year via the website of Erasmus MC Sophia. Since its launch, more than 1,500 visitors have found the page and visited one or more rooms on the tour. Compared to the number of operations, this is 1 in 4, a great result! The Sophia Children’s Hospital itself is also very positive about ‘Joep’s adventure’.

Joep’s adventure is great because it was developed for and by children. At Erasmus MC Sophia, we seriously listen to the advice of children. Children know very well what they need, we should not underestimate that. – Rosadinde Doornenbal, theme coordinator Erasmus MC Sophia

Child-friendly content

Joep’s adventure is an example of child-friendly content, tailored to prepare parents and children for their arrival at the hospital. There are many situations where it is very valuable to develop child-friendly content. Do you want to get started with this? Then start from the needs of the child and focus on practical, accessible content. Also discuss difficult topics and preferably involve both children and content experts in the development.

Do you want to know more or do you need help with child-friendly or other content or marketing issues? Please do not hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help you!


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