Learn How One Hospital Uses Pokémon GO to Help Patients

Patients at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital find physical therapy sessions more enjoyable, thanks to Pokémon GO.

After hearing of how the Ann Arbor, Mich. hospital was putting Niantic Labs’ massively popular virtual Pokémon-catching game to good use, Nintendo News contacted their team for more information. We asked J.J. Bouchard, a digital media manager at the hospital, a few questions to learn more about how the game is being implemented to create a fun environment for patients.

How did you discover Pokémon GO?
It is my job to seek out new technology that has a therapeutic, recreational, or educational benefit for our patients and integrate it into our hospital’s practice. A group called GameStart, who comes into our hospital to teach our patients how to code video games, told me about it. I downloaded it the weekend it came out. My daughter and I played with it all weekend. When I came into work [the following] Monday, I was going to tell my staff about it. When I turned on my computer, I already had 20 emails from staff telling me how they had already been using the game to motivate their patients. It was pretty exciting how quickly our hospital embraced the game.

About how many of the patients are playing?
It’s hard to say. I see about 10-20 per day walking the halls and playing on their own. These are different kids every time. I know of at least five patients who have made it a part of their daily exercise.

How long does each child play Pokémon GO per day?
It really depends on the patient. Some leave their phones on all day and just catch the Pokémon as the creatures pass their rooms. Other patients will spend a good 20-40 minutes walking the halls looking for Pokémon. Many of the patients’ siblings also like to play the game while waiting for the patient to finish a test or procedure.

How has Pokémon GO impacted physical therapy sessions?
For many patients it has made the sessions much easier. They are much more eager to get out of their rooms and walk. For a lot of our patients, just getting out of bed can be very painful and difficult. Having something fun to actively search for helps take their minds off of that pain.

Pokémon GO at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital

Do any of the children get out into the real world, beyond the confines of the facility?
We have two courtyards within our hospital and an Arboretum just across the street from our hospital. There are PokéStops at all of these locations. They have been great motivators for patients to get outside and get exposed to some fresh air and sunlight.

How are parents reacting to this new method of physical therapy? What are some of the things children are saying about it?
Patients always seem to smile when they see a Pokémon pop up in front of them for the first time — many are working together to find Pokémon. It is fun to see patients encouraging each other to take that extra step.

One patient, David Hicks, said “I love the game because I get to meet a lot of cool people while getting exercise in the hospital. It’s cool to see doctors and nurses getting excited about a game I love.”

So, are you one of the millions of people who are playing Pokémon GO? If so, what team are you on? How many hospital staff members are catching ’em all?
Yes, I love Pokémon GO. I started playing just to take pictures of my daughter with all of the different Pokémon. Now I am really into the game. I am on Team Instinct and I just recently took my first Gym. It was pretty exciting. I would say at least 70 percent of the hospital staff are playing the game on their breaks. It’s pretty fun to watch everyone in the cafeteria trying to catch Pokémon.

Nintendo News thanks the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for taking the time to talk with us about how they’re using technology in creative ways to make a positive difference for the children in America.

For more information, be sure to check out the hospital’s website or their Twitter.