Submitted by Aflac Incorporated
By David Hucks
CHARLESTON, S.C. — January 25, 2023 — Thanks to a new partnership with Aflac, patients at children’s hospitals across the state will be able to sign up for self-guided virtual tours of the South Carolina Aquarium, with the help of roving robot technology. Controlled directly from the patient’s in-room tablet, the robot will allow the patient to create their own path through the exhibits and enjoy an immersive experience from afar.
This program, piloted at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, is expanding to work with Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in the Midlands and Upstate. Educators at the Aquarium are working with hospital staff to arrange these robot tours during patients’ free time, long stays or even during their treatments.
“It has been truly amazing to facilitate this experience. The kids are able to take control and drive through the Aquarium on their own exploration, when in many other aspects of their lives, they may lack that sense of being the one ‘at the wheel,” said virtual programs coordinator, Alayna Robertson.
Nature has an enormous impact on well-being, and the telepresence robot offers a bridge to connect patients with water and wildlife. Patients have full control of the robot, letting curiosity guide them as they move forward to visit a sea turtle at its tank window, look up to see a shark swim by or zoom in to get a closer look at the iridescent scales on a fish. They are able to speak and engage with the Aquarium educator teaching them along their adventure. They can even talk to Aquarium guests or wave to fellow kids on a field trip.
Betsy McMillan, child life manager at MUSC Children’s Health shared, “We were thrilled when the Aquarium team approached us about this program. The Lowcountry views from our hospital rooms offer the perfect background to this unique and educational escape for our inpatients. We are grateful for this amazing opportunity. What child doesn’t want to steer a robot and tour the wonderful South Carolina Aquarium at the same time!”
A generous gift from Aflac has made this program possible for patients at these hospitals.
“We’re pleased to help children in hospitals across the state experience the wonder of the South Carolina Aquarium without ever leaving their rooms,” said Bob Ruff, senior vice president, Group Voluntary Benefits. “Whether it is through our award-winning My Special Aflac Duck® program for children with cancer and sickle cell disease or initiatives like this, providing comfort and joy to kids who are going through medical challenges represents our commitment to be there for families in their times of need.”
Aflac is a Fortune 500 company, providing financial protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. When a policyholder or insured gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fairly, promptly and directly to the insured. For more than six decades, Aflac voluntary insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress.
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