Skip to content

Transforming Patient Care: Using VR to Help Kids Cope with Difficult Medical Procedures
Featured Speaker: Tom Caruso, MD
Episode 01 | 32 minutes
February 1, 2021


“[Through using immersive technologies], we turn what could be a very negative experience from [a child’s] perception into a very positive one.”

How might we reimagine a child’s experience in the hospital so that it’s less painful and anxiety-inducing? Pediatric anesthesiologists Sam Rodriguez, MD, and Tom Caruso, MD at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, are finding innovative ways to answer this question through a program they developed called CHARIOT, which helps reduce anxiety through immersive technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, and smart projectors.

In this episode, Dr. Caruso describes the technologies and games they've developed, how they’ve helped thousands of kids, what inspired him to work in pediatrics, and his vision to use CHARIOT to help kids worldwide.

Episode Length: 32:39 min.

1:49 – How the CHARIOT program has gamified traditional therapy for kids through virtual reality
4:29 – Background of the CHARIOT program and Dr. Sam Rodriguez's involvement in co-founding CHARIOT
8:52 – Dr. Caruso describes an early game developed, Sevo the Dragon, which incorporates smart projectors and a cartoon dragon to assist in delivering anesthesia.
12:22 – Dr. Caruso describes use cases for the CHARIOT program, including perioperatively, to facilitate dressing changes, and to help facilitate rehabilitation.
15:14 – Virtual reality "is usually utilized using a head-mounted display headset, and you place this headset over your eyes. And within the headset, you see computer-generated imagery of a world that we've created that is sometimes unlike the one you're currently in."
16:48 – Four facets of the CHARIOT program include hardware modification, software development, research, and clinical adoption.
19:20 – How Dr. Caruso became involved in pediatrics
21:36 – Why Dr. Caruso is passionate about working for Packard Children's Hospital
22:51 – "This sort of program doesn't just happen organically. It only happens if there's a passion and enthusiasm for really transforming patients' care."
23:48 – How the community has supported CHARIOT
25:08 – Regarding the need for continued support, Dr. Caruso recalls the ways immersive technology can be used. "And the use cases are not decreasing, they're expanding."
27:31 – Dr. Caruso's vision for a virtual center for immersive technologies at Packard Children's Hospital
29:27 – How Dr. Caruso spends time in nature

About the Podcast

Care + Cures: Advancing children's health in Silicon Valley (a Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health podcast) unites families, donors, doctors and more to advance transformative healthcare for children. Echoing the innovative spirit of Lucile “Lu” Packard, the children’s hospital’s visionary founder, Cares + Cures delivers stories of patient triumphs and challenges, medicine’s successes and failures, and the power of community support—all coming together to change the world, one child at a time.

About the Host

Sarah Davis is a podcast producer and learning experience designer with interests in storytelling, healthcare, the science of learning, and design thinking. She splits her time between the East Bay and Des Moines, Iowa, where she enjoys finding new food adventures, biking the trail networks, and admiring sunsets after hikes in the hills. You can reach her at