There are two things that this editor fears about blood draws: the fact that he has deep veins, and the prospect of being stabbed in the arm by a merciless phlebotomist. Some of those fears could soon be mitigated, thanks to a new robot called Veebot that partially automates blood draws and IV insertions.
Veebot combines the latest in robotics and imaging technology to ultimately speed up the process of drawing blood or inserting IVs. The patient slides his or her arm into an inflatable cuff, which acts as a tourniquet. An infrared light illuminates the inner elbow for a camera that searches for a suitable vein using software that compares the camera’s view against a model of an arm’s veins. Next, ultrasound confirms that the chosen vein has sufficient blood flow for a successful blood draw. Finally, the robotic arm aligns itself with the chosen vein and inserts the needle.
The whole process takes about a minute, and tests of the Veebot show that it can correctly identify the best vein with approximately 83% accuracy, which is about as good as a human phlebotomist. And, all that the human phlebotomist, that still has a job, needs to do is load the test tube or IV bag, disinfect the arm and clean the puncture afterwards, and perhaps offer the “this is going to stick a little” warning to anxious patients.
Veebot should hopefully offer some reassurances to those with tricky veins, but entrusting your arm to a robot wielding a large needle is a whole other issue