The radiology department at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust has gained a digital twin to help reassure young patients and prepare them for a visit to the department.

The fully immersive, 3D replica of the department was built by PixelMax. It is hoped the virtual world will result in fewer delays and missed appointments by allowing children to experience the surroundings virtually to gain confidence ahead of a visit to the hospital.

The metaverse was developed in collaboration with the innovation team at Alder Hey and allows young patients to explore the surroundings and interact with the specialist devices used in the department – all from the comfort of their own homes.

As well as a chance to familiarise themselves with their surroundings, patients at Alder Hey will also be able to collect glowing key cards within the virtual world. These will allow them to access different areas of the online environment. There’s also the opportunity to win virtual badges for learning how equipment, such as x-ray machines and MRI scanners, work.

Alder Hey Innovation clinical director Iain Hennessey, said: “Our objective is to use the most advanced technologies to solve real-world healthcare challenges.

“The quality of the virtual worlds PixelMax develops really stood out to us. It’s been a privilege to work with such a skilled team in creating such an impressive replica of our radiology department, which we hope will engage, educate and provide vital reassurance for visitors.”

The initiative is the latest addition to Alder Play – Alder Hey’s digital playground for families and their children. Alder Play’s interactive experiences are designed to familiarise, distract and reward young patients. The digital web platform is free to use and can be accessed from any internet-enabled device.

Andy Sands, PixelMax co-founder, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to unveil our digital twin of the radiology department. As an NHS Innovation Scout, we are committed to developing new ways to use technology to improve the healthcare experience for everyone.

“And this project with Alder Hey really exemplifies that spirit. By crafting our bespoke, interactive 3D world, we hope that visiting the hospital will become a lot less of a daunting prospect for young patients and their families.”

It’s the latest collaboration for PixelMax with the healthcare sector. It recently worked on a project to familiarise patients with the proton beam therapy facility at The Christie Hospital in Manchester.

It’s not the first foray into virtual reality for Alder Hey. During the height of the Covid pandemic, the hospital used the mixed reality solution HoloLens to boost collaboration. The hospital has also been focused on the user experience and how to engage their patients to make the journey easier. In August last year it launched its first Accelerator to boost innovation in support of this aim.