BIR award winning MRI app attracts worldwide interest

Jonathan Ashmore portraitJonathan Ashmore explains how winning a BIR award has helped to raise awareness for an app to help children who are anxious about having an MRI scan. Find out how you can access the app and how it is helping children across the world.

A free award-winning app has been developed to help children who are scared and anxious about having an MRI scan. A team from the King’s College Hospital, King’s College London and The Belfast Trust have used their experience to develop the resource which, after winning the BIR/Bayer Make it Better Award (Highly Commended), is now attracting interest from across the world.

Jonathan Ashmore, an MRI physicist in the Neuroradiology Department at King’s College Hospital said the idea came about because he had an office within easy earshot of the scanner. “I would often hear nervous paediatric patients arrive for their scan, becoming increasingly upset when they saw the scanner and then were told to lay inside,” he said.

“To help prepare children for this daunting experience it seemed a 360 camera and a google cardboard headset could be used to create a “virtual reality mock scanner” giving a child the full MRI experience before the real thing took place. As the MRI safety expert in the hospital I was the one person qualified to try it out in the scanner.”

DummyInScannerA team including physicists, radiographers, a play specialist and a learning technologist subsequently developed an app, which when used with a £5 virtual reality (VR) headset and a standard mobile phone, allowed children to feel as though they are inside an MRI scanner and experience what it will be like on the day of their scan.

To accompany the app, they also developed an MRI preparation book showing the full MRI journey with clickable links to load the 360 videos from YouTube, which can also be displayed in a virtual reality headset. The preparation books are a great way for other sites to recreate the same thing, you just need to know how to make a word document and upload videos to YouTube.

So far the app has been extremely well received. Via feedback from 22 patients (aged 4-12) and ten staff, they ascertained how effective the app is. Unanimously it appeared to have had a positive impact: children seem to find it enjoyable, informative and genuinely helpful to relieve their anxieties. One child even suggested they were now excited to have their MRI scan! Even though the app is targeted to children, an unexpected outcome was the impact on parents who said the app made them far less anxious about their child’s procedure. It has also been used to avoid the need for a patient to be anaesthetised during the procedure.

Since the app’s release and winning the BIR/Bayer Make it Better Award there have been queries from across the world from sites wanting to re-create the experience. The most common question asked is “How did you film inside the scanner?” Interestingly, besides some minor projectile effects (easily overcome by fixing Samsung Gear360 camera to a phantom) they were able to capture footage whist the scanner was on.

Apps are currently available for the King’s College Hospital and The Belfast Trust children’s MRI units and hopefully soon to be released for Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. There is continued interest from other NHS trusts for other journeys. The filming for one such journey, a patient going to theatres for surgery is also already underway. Costs for the project included the 360 camera and a number of headsets and in total would amount to under £400 which was initially funded by hospital charities and research budgets.

The app is available for free download from the android Play Store or iOS App store under the names “My MRI at King’s” or “Virtual reality MRI” for the King’s and Belfast versions. Access the preparation book for free here https://goo.gl/9NkEJe

For more enquiries please contact Jonathan Ashmore jonathan.ashmore@nhs.net

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