Helping children and their families feel comfortable and creating an environment to engage, calm and distract tamariki while they wait for treatment was all part of the brief for the Datacom team working on New Zealand’s newest children’s hospital.

Te Wao Nui, Wellington’s new children’s hospital, has opened its doors to patients this week for the first time and the role of technology is not restricted to diagnostics and medical equipment in the three-storey facility.

Visitors to the hospital will find a massive interactive game wall created by Datacom in the admissions area and a responsive donor wall that updates in real time.

Senior Health Operations Project Manager Sue Valentine says one of the real challenges in a hospital waiting room is that children want to run around and play which is not safe in the confined setting, but they are also often anxious, and distraction is important.

“The colour, the distraction and the movement of the interactive wall is the perfect solution to drawing a child over, to reduce their anxiety, to create a distraction, and also to get in a physical activity without having to touch or move things.”

“The brief for the interior of the building was really informed by the idea of the kaitiaki or guardians that are here to take the children through their journey of care.”

Datacom New Zealand’s Managing Director Justin Gray says working on the Te Wao Nui project has been a real opportunity to make an impact for the people of Wellington.

“For the Datacom team it is really important that we make a positive impact in the communities that we work in. Te Wao Nui is providing such an important service for the community, for the children and families in the region, that when we had the chance to get involved we couldn’t help but be excited about bringing our skills and capabilities and trying to make a difference.”

Wellington Hospitals Foundation Chair Bill Day says the vision for the hospital began around six years ago and was made possible by a generous donation of more than $50 million from property developer Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood.

“Designers, architects, clinical staff and members of our community have been involved in this project from the outset providing valuable feedback on the design and function of the building, and the needs of patients and whānau who will be using this facility.”

Day says Datacom has played a critical role in helping to bring the vision to life, and using technology to create spaces that will help put children at ease, alleviate fears.

“Now they come into a warm, caring environment that is friendly and it's a little bit quirky because we've got the Tree of Life here, we’ve got our interactive wall and features and running through all of this is our wonderful kaitiaki, our guardians.”

“The biggest thing, of course, is we've been able to bring all the children's hospital services under one roof, because before now they have been spread all around the campus of Wellington Hospital. We’ve now got a hospital for our children, our tamariki, that is fit for the future.”

CCDHB Project Manager Nick Edmundson says Datacom demonstrated their desire and passion for the project from day one.

"The Datacom team really grasped the challenge and delivered two great innovative solutions. They listened to the project team's ideas and led the journey from initial concepts to development and through to implementation. Both the interactive wall and donor wall concepts were initially just ideas that Datacom have been able to turn into a reality."

During the development phase of the project, Edmundson says it was decided to add a full feature mural in the reception area and the expertise of the Datacom team meant they were able to blend the interactive features into the overall mural and bring the whole wall to life.

"It has all contributed to creating a welcoming space that helps kids feel a little less anxious. The interactive screen forms the dominant aspect of the waiting area, and the kids are drawn to the animation and love collecting the various characters. Seeing kids smiling while they are waiting for their appointments is an incredible outcome."

Datacom GM Futures and Experiences, Midu Chandra says the project was a creative challenge that the team has really enjoyed, including the collaboration with partners including Wētā and Cato Brand Partners.

“Some of the most interesting things we've had to do is learn about divergent therapy and how do you create that space, which is calming and still gives people something to get away from the seriousness of what they're here for.”

“We also had to look at how we could honour the story of Te Wao Nui and bring in all the kaitiaki characters into it. It's all around how do we build those immersive experiences so we bring that physical and digital world together and that involved everything from concepting the gameplay, the UX and the visual artistry that goes behind it, and collaborating with our partners.”

Te Wao Nui children's hospital characters animation

“Delivering the interactive experiences has been a true team effort, with the project bringing together Datacom’s digital signage and transformational engagements team, our animators and designers, and digital engineering working on the front end to make it all come together and create that magic for the kids,” says Datacom’s Director of Transformational Engagements Mark Drysdale.

A further $10 million has also been funded by the Wellington Hospitals Foundation via the community to outfit and equip the interior of the new hospital. The Government committed an extra $45.6 million to the project to deliver a new purpose-built facility that ensures high quality care for young patients throughout the Wellington region and the Hutt Valley, Wairapapa, Manawatu, Whanganui, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Marlborough.

With 50 inpatient beds, the new hospital spans 7500 square metres and brings child health services under one roof for the first time – allowing for the integration of inpatient and outpatient services, as well as encouraging clinical collaboration and communication. ​It is also one of only five hospitals in the country that will be performing specialist paediatric surgery.

The hospital’s name is derived from Te Wao Nui a Tāne – "The Great Forest of Tāne" – referencing the life-giving properties of nature and of this new facility.

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