Meet MEDi: The humanoid robot who comforts children at SickKids Hospital

2 February 2017

Every year at SickKids Hospital, thousands of children undergo treatment for cancer. These children endure a battery of tests and procedures, many of which cause pain and discomfort to the young patients.

Bloomberg Nursing Associate Professor Jennifer Stinson’s recent research study introduced an innovative piece of technology to young oncology patients at SickKids Hospital, aimed at easing the children’s anxieties and stress around such medical procedures.

Meet MEDi (Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence) – a human-interactive robot.

MEDi the humanoid robot

Standing at only 2-feet tall, MEDi has a big job: help the children he works with feel at ease and better cope with the medical procedures they are undergoing.

MEDi greets each child he sees as they come in for a painful procedure. Once he’s introduced himself, he explains the procedure to the kids and distracts them through interactive dialogue – he can tell stories, dance, play games and even offers high-fives.

In Stinson’s controlled pilot study, 40 children with cancer between the ages of four and nine were randomized to receive MEDi, designed to help with port access (intervention group), or to a group having MEDi dance and sing (control group), while undergoing their subcutaneous port (SCP) access – a procedure that is often painful and frightening.

The results of Stinson’s study showed that that those who interacted with MEDi reported a reduction in pain compared to last port access with those in the intervention group showing a trend for reduced pain. Children, parents and nurses all found MEDi useful as a distraction-based intervention.

Going forward, MEDi can be programmed to interact with kids for a wide range of procedures, and plans are in place to expand his presence throughout SickKids Hospital.

You can see MEDi at work in this video: Watch MEDi in action

Dr. Jennifer Stinson is an Associate Professor at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, the Mary Jo Haddad Nursing Chair in Child Health and an Advanced Practice Nurse in the Chronic Pain Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. Visit her website to learn more about Dr. Stinson and her work.