Stress reduction in the hospital


For many young children, having surgery is a new and sometimes scary experience. An app made to distract children called ‘the WKZ-maatje’ (translated as: the WKZ-buddy) virtually transforms the hallway to the Operating room into a digital scavenger hunt, thereby reducing anxiety and stress-symptoms.

“It’s very cool that we are in the running of winning a Spin Award with an app that really makes a difference for children that actually need it!”

Pieter Siekerman, Creative Tech

Every day, around twenty-five children are moved to the operating room to go under anaesthetic. To many, this is a nerve-wrecking and often new experience that could lead to anxiety and stress. Adding to that, these children are solely surrounded by adults: nurses and doctors. Not surprisingly, some of these children experienced anxiety and stress-symptoms for months after having had surgery. A good patient journey helps to reduce anxiety and stress for children early in the preoperative process, thereby accelerating their recovery process.


Distraction helps to lower stress levels. In collaboration with the Child’s Council of the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital and the Youth department of the UMC Utrecht, we developed a distraction app: ‘het WKZ-maatje’ (the WKZ-buddy). It’s a digital scavenger hunt that starts at home when children receive the first information from the hospital. During their patient journey, children can use the app to scan different puzzle pieces hidden across the hospital ward. After scanning a puzzle piece, a monkey and tiger character appear on their screens, in augmented reality, telling jokes and stories in order to distract children from what’s happening around them.


Looking for puzzle pieces has tremendously added value as these children are eager to look for the next piece themselves to discover a new story. The use of augmented reality also makes these children feel that although they are surrounded by adults, they have a real buddy by their side. Circa 70% of them actually felt distracted by the app and they collectively rate the app with an 8 (out of 10). Parents have shown tremendous appreciation in the efforts made to accompany their children as good as possible, they find it a nice and original way to distract children. Initially, the ‘WKZ-buddy’ was only available for children having day treatments but soon after, other nursing wards were also able to make use of the app.