Background For many children, visiting the hospital can lead to a state of increased anxiety. Social robots are being explored as a possible tool to reduce anxiety and distress in children attending a clinical or hospital environment. Social robots are designed to communicate and interact through movement, music and speech.
Objective This systematic review aims at assessing the current evidence on the types of social robots used and their impact on children’s anxiety or distress levels when visiting the hospital for outpatient appointments or planned admissions.
Methods Databases such as MEDLINE, PubMed, IEEE Xplore, Web of Science, PsychINFO and Google Scholar were queried for papers published between January 2009 and August 2020 reporting the use of social robots interacting with children in hospital or clinical environments.
Results A total of 10 studies were located and included. Across these 10 studies, 7 different types of robots were used. Anxiety and distress were found to be reduced in the children who interacted with a social robot.
Conclusions Overall, the evidence suggests that social robots hold a promising role in reducing levels of anxiety or distress in children visiting the hospital. However, research on social robots is at an early stage and requires further studies to strengthen the evidence base.
- qualitative research
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Contributors BKML created the systematic review protocol; conducted the data extraction, preparation, analysis and wrote the initial manuscript. TA assisted with the systematic review extraction, preparation and analysis. PD, CS and LdW advised on the protocol, the data extraction, preparation, analysis and reviewed the manuscript drafts.
Funding This research was supported by the NIHR Children and Young People MedTech Co-operative.
Disclaimer The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, NHS of Department of Health and Social Care.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. Brenda Littler ORCID: email@example.com
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