Finalist 2022


Smileyscope Pty Ltd

Smileyscope is an innovative virtual reality platform that helps prepare and support patients before, during and after medical procedures.

Smileyscope is an innovative virtual reality platform that prepares and supports patients during medical procedures. Patients often dread medical procedures such as blood tests, medical imaging and biopsies. Smileyscope provides gamified health education and psychological support to patients to turn fear into fun. For example, 75% of paediatric patients are anxious before MRI which often leads to unsuccessful scans. Almost half of paediatric patients are sedated for MRIs. By exposing patients to the sights and sounds of an MRI in a fun way (bakery or space adventure), SmileyscopeMRI reduces anxiety and streamlines care.

Design Brief:

MRI is one of the most feared non-invasive medical procedures. It requires patients to enter and lay still in a narrow tunnel for 30-60 minutes. The environment can be anxiety provoking, and some patients refuse to lie on the MRI table due to fear or claustrophobia. Movement during the scan can degrade image quality, and this can make the scan non-diagnostic. Almost half of paediatric patients are sedated for MRIs The aim was to design a digital game to simulate the MRI environment and teach patients how to stay still for a successful awake MRI scan.

Our product aims to:

  • Improve patient experience
  • Help reduce unnecessary sedation for MRI procedures through preparation and education
  • Improve clinical efficiencies and workflow
  • Provide a cheap, reusable and portable solution that is accessible to all hospitals/clinics

This project was developed by:

Design Process

SmileyscopeMRI followed an Agile design process to create a novel way to prepare patients for MRI. Firstly we brought a cross-disciplinary team and clinical experts from leading hospitals together to determine the design requirements.

We wanted to ensure the experience was:

  • Age-appropriate content for ages 4yrs+
  • Flexible design for patients of all abilities (i.e. adjustable volume, works sitting up or lying down)
  • Engaging, immersive and accurately simulated the MRI sounds
  • Clinical usability (i.e. quick startup time, easy to clean)
  • Gamified to encourage patients to keep still, including head tracking to produce an overall ‘stillness score’ to predict patient performance in real MRI
  • Low cost, reusable solution Secondly, we workshopped with clinicians and patients to brainstorm concepts and develop storyboards to provide fun and informative ways to learn about MRIs.
  • For clinicians, the user experience was designed to be easy-to-use, and provide information to help them assess the patient’s needs and likely response in a real MRI scan.
  • For patients, we designed the experience to be intuitive, immersive, and to resonate with a broad range of abilities and interests. Younger patients loved the idea of going into the ‘giant donut’ and having a bakery adventure where they are encouraged to stay still to stack and decorate baked goods. Older children wanted to reimagine the MRI scan as a space adventure where they spot planets and alien animals through holding their telescope still.
  • The adventures were weaved in with accessible information about the different steps of the MRI scan, positive reinforcement and coping skills. Thirdly, the designs were professionally built in VR while we continually reviewed the design brief and priorities. Based on patient and clinician user testing, we had many iterations where we sharpened the visual, audio and interactive cues, before launching the product to hospitals.

Design Excellence

SmileyscopeMRI was designed using best practice design principles and is grounded in research and data to provide the optimal solution for all stakeholders. Research enabled us to determine a list of attributes or criteria that the product needed to meet to achieve the design goals and ultimately be an effective tool to help to prepare patients for MRI procedures.

The criteria included functionality (i.e. familiarise patients with the MRI environment), accessibility (appropriate for patients aged 4yrs+), aesthetics (engaging and immersive VR environments) safety (adherence to hospital infection control requirements), quality (include a durable and reusable product) and sustainability (a low cost solution).

SmileyscopeMRI was designed to provide a solution that takes into consideration the needs of both clinicians and patients to ensure that it was fit for purpose. Our research and interviews with clinical experts provided us with multiple deliverables that SmileyscopeMRI needed to achieve from a clinical perspective to provide the optimal preparation for a patient receiving an MRI procedure without needing to physically enter an MRI machine. Our research and testing with potential patients provided us with themes and storylines that we could intertwine with the clinical requirements to deliver them in a fun and engaging way for patients.

SmileyscopeMRI is the first product of its kind to deliver similar benefits to a Mock MRI in more efficient, portable and accessible way, ensuring patients everywhere can receive the highest quality healthcare possible. The product exemplifies how investment in innovative design and innovative technologies can be used to deliver the benefits of legacy products in a significantly more efficient way to make world class healthcare much more accessible.

Design Innovation

Smileyscope has developed an immersive and engaging way to prepare patients for MRI scan and assess the patient’s ability to successfully complete a scan. Through reimagining the MRI as a giant donut where the patient is encouraged to lie still to stack and decorate baked goods, children can learn what to expect from the MRI scan through positive reinforcement and gamification. The VR technology tracks head movement, and can provide a stillness rating that can help with clinical assessments.

The games get progressively more challenging, encouraging patients to stay as still as possible while habituating them to the sights and sounds of the MRI. Each feature is designed to optimise exposure, patient learning and positive coping for the procedure. This increases MRI scan success and potentially avoiding unnecessary exposure to anaesthesia. This differs significantly from traditional Mock MRI machine. Mock MRIs are expensive and take up a lot of hospital space so very few hospitals can afford to have them. Patient education visits for Mock MRI have been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

SmileyscopeMRI is unique and innovative because it taps into a patient’s imagination to familiarise and gamify a potentially anxiety-provoking procedure. It is significantly cheaper and more portable than Mock MRI. This means world class healthcare experiences and technology accessible to many more patients. We used user-centered design to ensure SmileyscopeMRI met the needs of clinicians and patients. Clinicians wanted a digital tool that could support their assessment and provide patient education for the procedure. Patients needed age-appropriate content that was not only engaging, but also delivered sufficient exposure to an MRI environment to help them feel comfortable and safe.

Design Impact

SmileyscopeMRI can help improve the experience of the nearly 3 million MRI scans performed in Australia each year. Pilot programs at leading Australian and US Hospitals reported that 93% of clinicians found SmileyscopeMRI made it easier to conduct MRI procedures and 100% reported that they were likely or very likely to use it in the future. Most importantly, 89% of patients reported that SmileyscopeMRI helped them successfully complete the MRI.

SmileyscopeMRI can significantly improve the experience for patients, clinicians and the healthcare system. Impacts include

  • Improve patient experience by preparing patients through simulated education
  • Potentially reduce unnecessary patient sedation for MRI procedures by adequately preparing patients to tolerate the MRI environment. Non sedated MRI procedures are safer, faster, and require less resources
  • Improve clinical efficiencies and workflow by helping clinicians to assess patient suitability for awake MRIs
  • Reduce the time needed to resequence images if the patient understands and is able to stay still for the procedure
  • Provide a cheap, reusable and portable solution that is accessible to all hospitals/clinics with MRI machines.

The main alternative is a mock MRI machine that is costly and takes up significant hospital space. The efficiencies created by tools like SmileyscopeMRI may reduce waiting times by allowing more scans to be conducted successfully. SmileyscopeMRI can be a valuable tool given that some MRI wait list in Victoria are over one year.

One Senior Medical Imaging Technologist in our pilot remarked “It was very positive and we achieved a successful exam with the patient staying very still. The addition of the game/practice being still as well as the familiarisation of MRI noises was fantastic.”

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