Immersive Technologies in Pediatric Healthcare: AR, VR, and Gamification for Improved Patient Outcomes

  • Published: April 23, 2024



Virtual path to better health

Today, the digitization of healthcare practices and processes exhibits a major momentum. Especially in times of partially endangered access to care and the unequal distribution of healthcare providers and specialists, the comprehensive provision of healthcare services to safeguard societal health, patient satisfaction, and safety, as well as positive therapy outcomes, requires innovative ways of treatment delivery and execution. The USA digital healthcare market is forecasted to grow at 16.6% CAGR from 2022 to 2023. Healthcare spending in the USA has been growing at a faster rate than the overall economy for many years. Recently, wearable technology has become one of the leading and considerably most valuable assets within the digital health solutions category. These wearable devices help patients set goals, while companion applications can provide context, offer tailored support, and help patients better understand their conditions. While these interactive devices help in assistive healthcare, we are moving towards more promising tools for immersive digital healthcare. These immersive technologies combine a plethora of state-of-the-art digital tools and experiences that blur the lines between the real and virtual worlds. Although we are all familiar with and have utilized technology like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Simulation, and Gamification in our daily lives, they can be incredibly helpful in the context of pediatric healthcare for both patients and healthcare personnel, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes and safety.


Complexities in implementing immersive technologies


Although immersive technologies in pediatric healthcare have unlocked innumerable opportunities, they also bring about multiple challenges for both sides of the spectrum – the healthcare providers and patients. 


  • Content appropriation & comfortability: Immersive experiences must be created to ensure that they are developmentally appropriate and engaging for children of different ages. Comfortable devices must be used that minimize discomfort and ensure a positive experience for young patients during therapy sessions or medical procedures. For example, content must be adjusted for young patients based on their emotional state or physiological responses. 
  • Parental involvement & consent: Obtaining informed consent from parents or guardians is essential before exposing pediatric patients to immersive technologies. Parents must be fully informed about the purpose, risks, and benefits of using AR/VR in their child’s healthcare but since this technology is new, parental acceptance may be an issue. 
  • Limited attention span: Young patients usually have very limited attention spans and hence creating varied and tailored experiences may be time and cost-consuming.
  • Accessibility & equity: Certain pediatric patients may have delayed development issues and sensory processing issues hence they must be carefully evaluated before being projected to any immersive technologies. For these patients, alternative therapies and interventions may be more appropriate to address their unique needs and challenges. 
  • Long-term effects on health: Another such challenge arises when it comes to monitoring the potential long-term effects of these technologies on pediatric patients, such as visual health, stress levels, addiction, fatigue, etc. It needs to be ensured that these immersive experiences complement their real-world interactions rather than replace them. 


By addressing these specific challenges, healthcare providers can maximize the potential of immersive technologies to improve outcomes and enhance the healthcare experience for pediatric populations 


Integrating immersive technologies in pediatric healthcare


Nevertheless, the potential benefits overshadow the challenges, encouraging hospitals and healthcare providers to delve deeper into the realm of immersive technology. Medical applications of immersive technologies are immense and varied for all stakeholders involved in the pediatric healthcare industry.


  • For medical practitioners: AR/VR tools allow doctors to explain medical conditions and treatments to patients in a more interactive manner, offering detailed anatomical visuals. VR simulations aid in surgical planning, offering detailed anatomical views and practice sessions. If all hospitals in the USA increased the number of minimal invasive procedures using AR navigation systems that can achieve up to 85% accuracy as compared to 64% in conventional techniques, it can lead to $288 million in annual savings.  Doctors and surgeons can continue their medical education by utilizing various simulations and VR technologies to upskill themselves. 
  • For pediatric patients: When it comes to pediatric patients, immersive simulations take them on virtual adventures to engage and distract young patients. The gamification techniques can motivate patients to participate actively in their treatment. For the rehabilitation of patients, customized therapy sessions can be customized to enable motor skills, cognitive and sensory development. VR therapy has proven to reduce pain by up to 52%. VR environments for remote healthcare providers simulate face-to-face interactions, facilitating communication and rapport-building. Both VR and AR solutions can teach clinicians complex procedures, are effective in CPR training, can improve communication skills, may enhance critical thinking, and have been shown to improve clinical decision-making. They have also been shown to reduce costs and improve safety in advanced life support training.  
  • For remote healthcare providers: Remote healthcare providers can assess patient conditions, provide medical advice, and coordinate care plans with onsite healthcare teams, improving access to specialized care for pediatric patients in remote or underserved areas. 
  • For hospitals: Hospitals using immersive technology show their commitment to innovative healthcare, enhancing their reputation and attracting more patients. The more appealing and comforting atmosphere, the better the patient recovery which in turn leads to higher satisfaction rates in patients. Immersive technologies also lessen the need for in-person sessions, reducing transportation costs and improving healthcare availability for remote patients.


Impact of immersive technologies


For instance, as a part of an ongoing technique, Seattle Children’s Hospital integrates VR distraction therapy into pediatric oncology and hematology units, offering immersive experiences to alleviate anxiety and discomfort during chemotherapy and other treatments. The CDC and HRSA are using AR & VR technologies to promote pediatric health management and expand access to healthcare services in rural and underserved communities. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) uses VR-based software when planning complicated surgeries in their pediatric cardiology department. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center utilizes VR distraction therapy for pediatric patients undergoing painful procedures like injections and wound dressing. The NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) supports studies investigating the efficacy of VR distraction therapy for pediatric patients undergoing medical procedures. These examples demonstrate the diverse applications and the impact of AR/VR and immersive technologies in pediatric healthcare across various hospitals and medical centers in the USA, showcasing their potential to improve patient care, outcomes, and overall experience.


Future trends & opportunities


By 2030, immersive technologies in the healthcare market are forecasted to be worth over 25 billion U.S. dollars globally, up from around three billion U.S. dollars in 2023. In 2021 and 2022, 20 AR and VR medical devices were approved by the FDA in the United States, this was a higher number of devices approved in these two years than the previous six combined. This highlights the growing importance and use of immersive devices in healthcare. Immersive technologies present opportunities for forward-looking hospitals and health systems to reimagine care delivery along every step of the care continuum. 



By enhancing engagement, education, and therapy experiences, these technologies are shaping a future where pediatric patients receive more effective and personalized care, promising a brighter outlook for healthcare innovation. As we continue to explore and harness the capabilities of immersive technology, we can look forward to further advancements that will revolutionize pediatric healthcare and improve the lives of young patients across the globe. With the right infrastructure, vendor partnerships, and clinician-patient buy-ins, it can help prevent disease, detect important changes in patients’ medical conditions, diagnose patients more accurately, and tailor treatment plans to individual patients. The result is more value delivered to patients and communities. However, its best feature is its capacity to let children be children, even amidst the toughest times of their lives.


About us

Reveal HealthTech pioneers immersive technologies in pediatric healthcare, crafting engaging and tailored experiences to enhance patient outcomes and experiences. We strive to revolutionize pediatric care through innovative immersive technologies designed for comfort, effectiveness, and accessibility.