Veebot, a California-based start-up company, has developed a robotic phlebotomy system that usesinfrared lighting, an infrared camera, image analysis software, and ultrasound technology to automate the process of drawing blood.
In 2009, Richard Harris and his father Stuart came up with the idea of automated blood draws as a result of their combined interest in robotics, computer vision, and pharmaceutical research. A prototype was built in 2010 that could find and puncture dots drawn on flexible plastic tubing, and with funding from his father, he cofounded the company, according toIEEE Spectrum.
TheVeebot system process begins when a patient puts his or her arm into in archway over a padded table. An inflatable cuff then tightens around the arm and restricts blood flow to make veins easier to identify, and infrared light illuminates the inner elbow in order for the camera to provide images of the vein anatomy. Image analysis software then matches the camera’s view of the arm against a model of a vein anatomy and selects a target vein, which is then examined by ultrasound to confirm that it’s large enough and has sufficient blood flow.
Once a vein is chosen, the robot aligns the needle and places it into the patient’s vein, with the entire process taking only about a minute.
Veebot states that 20-25% of all venipuncture procedures fail to draw blood on the first stick, and that approximately 2 million needlestick injuries are reported each year, while as many as 40-75% of the injuries go unreported. With Veebot, the idea is to draw blood both faster and more accurately.
The Veebot machine correctly identifies the best vein to target about 83% of the time, according to Richard Harris. The company plans to launch the Veebot into clinical trials once the rate is up to 90%, at which point the company will seek outside funding to cover the expense of the trials.
View theIEEE Spectrum Veebot profile.
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