19 Apr Tech Advances: The Infusionarium & Improving the Patient Experience
If someone asked you “if you could get your chemotherapy treatment anywhere you can imagine, where would it be?” What would you say? Underwater? In outer space? These questions were the inspiration for the Infusionarium at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at Children’s Hospital (CHOC) in Orange County, California.
The Infusionarium offers kids and teens the opportunity to explore the world all while receiving treatments such as chemotherapy infusions, radiation, and rehabilitation. Patients are able to choose between relaxing in a healing environment, watching TV or movies, and playing interactive video games. The Infusionarium rooms are lined with screens that can transport you to faraway places, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium or watching the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s “Curiosity” rover on Mars! If you choose to spend time in the jungle, when you look up at the ceiling of the room, it’s like looking at the sky through the tree tops.
As more children and teens are surviving pediatric cancers, the need for emotional and psychosocial support has grown. Many other clinics and institutions are working to implement similar strategies to normalize treatment and build positive associations with receiving care and ultimately build strong, resilient people who are not just patients.
Staff members at CHOC have noted that patients using the Infusionarium tend to ask for less medication for nausea, anxiety, and diarrhea. Psychologically, cancer confounds what is considered to be normal adolescent development. As children and teens age, they want to become more independent, but with cancer treatment and care, kids and teens often remain in the phase of needing their parents. The Infusionarium gives patients the opportunity to assert their individuality and connect with other kids and teens facing the same experiences and issues.
At CHOC, the Infusionarium has become so popular that “traffic jams” build up throughout the day, as teens and children wait to use it. This innovative and technological advancement has improved the overall experience patients have during treatment by making the time spent receiving chemo, transfusions, and other medical treatments not just bearable, but interesting and even educational.