SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utah hospital patients can rest easy knowing that in the very near future they won't be pricked more than once for blood tests.
A partnership between Intermountain Healthcare and San Francisco-based Velano Vascular is investigating new technology that could "reduce the pin-cushion effect," according to Velano co-founder Eric Stone.
One in 3 hospital patients is stuck with needles at least twice a day during their stay, he said, sometimes for the same blood draw procedure.
"It can get to be barbaric when having your blood drawn sometimes two to three times a day if you're in the hospital four or five days," Stone said.
Multiple pricks cause bruising, making it difficult to find a vein and sometimes leading to more sticks.
The process often causes "pain and anxiety" for patients, said Kim Henrichsen, chief nursing officer and vice president for clinical operations at Intermountain.
For the number of times it is done, streamlining venipunctures, or needle sticks, makes sense, she said.
The Velano technology, Stone said, is a "single-use, disposable medical device" that allows a blood draw to be done through a peripheral catheter that is already placed in most patients' hands or arms for drug, nutrient or saline infusion.
"The catheter has been effective for infusing fluid but not good for pulling blood back," he said. The new device then uses the IV catheter as a conduit to pull lab-quality samples. "It's simply a tube-in-a-tube approach."
Stone called the approach "far more humane and compassionate" than using needles to draw blood each time it is needed. With no needle, he said, there is "theoretically less risk."
Needles also pose a risk to providers, and the routine procedures cost more when done more than once.
Stone, a self-proclaimed trypanophobic (along with 10 percent of the American population who are afraid of needles), hopes the technology, which has already achieved Food and Drug Administration clearance, will lead to a change in the standard of care for all hospital patients.
"Every person will spend time at some point in their lives in a hospital," he said. "Our vision is for it to touch every single human on the planet."
The partnership with Intermountain, Stone said, was deliberate, as he believes the organization, with its 22 hospitals, is one of the "most innovative systems in the country" and "in the upper echelon of clinical practice."
Information gleaned from the local study, he said, is broader than what has resulted from clinical trials. It will look at workflow, time and motion studies, health economics and quality outcomes.
"Our collaboration with Velano represents a unique and compelling opportunity to better understand and improve our practice of this ubiquitous procedure," Henrichsen said.
Velano and Intermountain will record the processes, costs and implications of multiple blood draw approaches in a host of clinical care settings. The information will be used to identify more efficient, new and better ways of doing things.
"The results of our collective efforts have the potential to dramatically improve the healing experience, making essential health care safer, more cost-effective and more compassionate for everyone involved," Stone said.
The "needle-free" technology, he said, is the first medical device he's seen where "the human compassion element really hits home and makes sense."
"Few would argue that this doesn't make sense," Stone said.