Innovative Concepts

New Concept in Patient Education: Animated Videos at Texas Children’s Heart Center

Interview by Jodie Elrod 

Interview by Jodie Elrod 

In this interview we speak with Dr. Daniel J. Penny, chief of pediatric cardiology at Texas Children’s Hospital, about an innovative video series created for pediatric patients at the hospital.

Tell us about the Texas Children’s Heart Center. How many electrophysiology-related pediatric cases were treated annually? Describe the range of EP procedures performed at the Texas Children’s Heart Center.

Texas Children’s Heart Center is ranked #2 nationally in cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. The Arrhythmia and Pacing Service at Texas Children’s Heart Center offers a broad complement of diagnostic and therapeutic options to evaluate and manage heart rhythm abnormalities. Our service treats among the highest volume of patients in the country for invasive electrophysiology studies and pacemaker/defibrillator implantations, and the team maintains success rates for ablations that exceed the national average. In 2015, our acute success rate for supraventricular tachycardia ablations reached 99 percent, which is above the national average of 95.2 percent. The service interprets an average of 20,000 EKGs and 4,000 Holter monitors each year. Other non-invasive services include event monitors, exercise treadmills, tilt table evaluations, and genetic testing.

How did this idea to create a series of animated videos for Texas Children’s Heart Center come about?

When I was working at a hospital in Australia, we collaborated with an animator to produce videos similar to the ones we’ve recently released. I was excited to work with my friend and animator, Michael Liddy, to bring this essential resource to patients and families at Texas Children’s and across the U.S. I hear from patients and their families all the time who say they were frightened or intimidated the moment they received a congenital heart disease diagnosis. In an effort to help children with heart problems better understand their diagnosis and potential treatment options, we created a series of animated videos geared towards a young viewer.

Tell us about your role in the creation of these videos. What elements did you think were important to include in the videos?

I have been involved in the creation of these videos from the conceptualization phase, through the development phase, and continue to be involved as we produce additional videos in our series. I thought it was not only important to ensure the characters were exciting for young children, but the clinical information was easily digestible for a child and their family as well.

What is the purpose of the videos? For what age ranges are the videos appropriate for?

The one-of-a-kind animated videos run 4 to 7 minutes long. The purpose of the series is to help explain a diagnosis and treatment plan to patients and their families. The videos are geared towards a younger audience, but I believe teenagers would enjoy them and benefit from them as well.

Tell us more about the videos and their “storyline.” What topics are covered in each of the videos?

The videos are set in a hospital room modeled after ours at Texas Children’s. In sticking with the Texas theme, the stars of the animations are Ruby, an armadillo with long, thick eyelashes, and Beau, a kind bison, who identify a problem with a child’s heart and call in their friends, the Blings, to help explain what’s happening and how the issue is affecting the heart. The tangerine-colored Blings quickly hop in and out of colorful cars and use a multitude of tools to remedy the issue. Currently, we have videos available which detail conditions ranging from aortic stenosis and pulmonary stenosis to a standard ECG and a surgical closure of a ventricular septal defect.

When are patients and their families shown the videos?

Patients and families at Texas Children’s and across the world have access to the videos 24/7 via the Texas Children’s website. Physicians and members of the care team are also equipped with cards with the web URL on them to hand out during clinic appointments. Some providers also show the video to their patient during an appointment.

How many videos have been created so far? When were the first videos released? What patient feedback have you received thus far?

Currently, 10 videos are available to patients and families on our website. The first videos were released in February 2016 to coincide with Heart Month. The feedback we have received thus far has been very positive. In fact, we’ve had people from all over the world visit our site, which is very exciting.

Tell us about the costs associated with producing the videos.

The animation videos are generously funded through a grant from ExxonMobil.

Are there plans to do more videos? When approximately will these become available?

Yes. When the series is complete, there will be nearly 40 videos available to help educate families, especially children, about complex heart conditions. As the videos are completed, we add them to our website. We hope to have the series completed by mid 2017.

Why was it important to offer this new option to your patients and their families?

When a patient with a heart defect walks into a hospital’s heart center clinic, the unknown can be somewhat unsettling for the child and their parents. I believe that if we can empower patients through information, we can likely improve their treatment outcome and overall quality of life. We hope these videos will be an indispensable resource for our patients and those across the nation who are diagnosed with a congenital heart disease.

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