As a chronic illness sufferer, I wholeheartedly agree with Planetree President Susan Frampton’s recent Planetalk commentary:
Indeed, despite all the technical advances of the recent past and the sophisticated care delivery and payment models that have been launched within our industry, for patients and their loved ones, the essence of what makes a healthcare experience a good one comes down to the quality of human interactions.
If you’ve ever spent a night in the hospital as a patient (if not, probability suggests that it is, unfortunately, bound to happen), you are aware that our practitioners strive to help, but by the very nature of their jobs sometimes hurt. Specifically, I’m referring to the all-too-common blood draw procedure, which is conducted an estimated 400 million times in U.S. hospital inpatient settings every year. The results of this procedure inform 70% of clinical decisions. Few will argue that “sticks”, or venipuncture, are an inevitable aspect of a hospital stay and probably even fewer would disagree with the statement that needle sticks are nearly universally disliked by patients. Merely polling friends and family leads me to the wholehearted conclusion that if you are animate, you most certainly do not like getting stuck. Meanwhile, an estimated 10% of Americans are trypanophobic , possessing a deep-seated fear of needles that can lead to delay or outright avoidance of essential care. Our current approach to phlebotomy is archaic, inhumane and generally taken for granted; blood draw technologies have not advanced much over the past few centuries.
Twenty-five years ago I was admitted to my local children’s hospital, a vulnerable and confused 14 year-old. Over the course of the next 12 days, I was stuck repeatedly day and night for “labs” – labs typically drawn between the wee hours of 4 and 6 a.m. These daily sleep disruptions may have delayed my healing, or at the very least seemed a necessary nuisance to my parents and me. I have distinct memories of fear – anxiousness about the needle, fear of the individuals (it usually took a “team” to complete each draw), and an overall sense of discomfort. I know that this experience is not only scary for kids, but is also unsettling for most adults. And I know I am not alone – these feelings are prevalent. Just scour the open text commentary in your HCAHPS, ask your patients, ask your nurses and phlebotomists. And with one in six inpatients stuck 10 or more times during their hospital stay, and one in four patients undergoing two or more lab draws per day, the fear, anticipation and discomfort usually mounts over time .
Fast forward nearly 20 years and I was introduced to Dr. Pitou Devgon, who had experienced a “lightbulb” moment when one of his elderly patients asked him, “Why are you sticking me with a needle in this arm – can’t you just draw my blood out of this ‘thing’ (pointing to the peripheral IV catheter in her opposing arm)?” And thus our journey began – a patient and a physician-turned-inventor became co-founders on a quest to develop a simple, novel approach to blood drawing that eliminates the needle (as well as costly, risky PICC and CVC line draws). The vision of our small company is to create a future where the age-old reliance on needle-based blood draws is replaced by just one stick, then patients are never stuck again for the purpose of a routine inpatient blood draw.
Our device collects blood by advancing a small plastic tube through the peripheral IV catheter (PIVC) that is already in place. Today, we are excited about the potential of a breakthrough technology and hope that it will, over time, improve the standard of care: for patients, it aims to be safer and less disruptive, for practitioners it seeks to bring efficiencies (particularly in difficult access patients) and a reduction in needle-safety risks, and for hospitals, it attempts to enhance a culture of safety and satisfaction for everyone in the hospital. At the root of these efforts is the patient, creating a human-centered lens that informs every decision we make. The early clinical study results are promising. Our device delivers similar hemolysis rates and analyte results compared to today’s standard needle draw/venipuncture, but with minimal sensation and pain on the part of patients.
Velano Vascular is fortunate to be working with Planetree to support the organization’s culture of patient and practitioner-centered care through the evaluation, validation and eventual roll out of this transformative innovation. We are currently working closely with Griffin Hospital, a Planetree member, to complete studies and evaluations of the technology. Many patients who have experienced the device suggest it is preferable to needle sticks. As a patient myself, I believe that if this becomes a standard of care, health systems around the world will never look back. Until then, we will continue our quest to expand both availability to more hospitals and the extent of our product offerings, and to chip away at an entrenched healthcare industry mentality of continuing to do things “the way they’ve always been done”.
Whether you’re needle phobic, a patient or a practitioner, a hospital leader or a caring soul responsible for a sick loved one, we’re working hard to help you. Many aspects of your hospital experience will create anguish and anxiety. If we can minimize some of those lesser but frequent fears pertaining to the daily blood draw so that you can focus your scarce and precious energy on healing, we will have succeeded. With the help of the visionary and progressive leaders at Planetree, we’re realizing our vision of bringing compassion into care.
Interested in learning more? Meet Eric Stone in Boston at the Planetree Conference where he’ll be presenting on this patient-centered innovation.
 Deacon B, Abramowitz J, Fear of needles and vasovagal reactions among phlebotomy patients, Anxiety Disorders 20 (2006) 946–960.
 Velano Vascular analyses of hospital partner blood draw data.