IWK researchers introduce robot helper for blood collection clinic in Halifax

Click to play video: 'Blood collection at the IWK is about to get a whole lot cuter – and more robotic'
Blood collection at the IWK is about to get a whole lot cuter – and more robotic
WATCH ABOVE: A group of researchers are launching a new study aimed at helping kids cope better with blood work and those pesky needles. Jennifer Grudic looks at how a new little helper could make all the difference – Jul 25, 2017

There’s a shiny new employee at the IWK Health Centre.

Researchers with the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research have launched a new study into how a humanoid robot can help to reduce procedural pain and distress for children within the blood collection clinic.

“The robot has been used in a couple different children’s hospitals in North America so far and has been studied in published articles and journals showing that he is effective in reducing pain and distress,” said Dr. Christine Chambers, Canada Research Chair in children’s pain.

“But, no ones really approached it from an implementation perspective yet.”

READ MORE: Aboriginal children express pain differently: IWK research

Chambers said they were able to purchase the robot with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

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“This project is a really good example of how we need to take research to the front lines,” Chambers said.

“It’s no good just for people to study technology and interventions and just publish it in academic journals. We really need to make more of an effort to translate this research into opportunities where children can actually benefit.”

The robot can be programmed to interact with children in a clinical setting. It has a wide variety of capabilities ranging from calming breathing exercises to playing a game of “rock-paper-scissors”.

READ MORE: Many parents don’t know what to do after they bring their kids home from hospital: study

“[The robot] is there to play with the kids, interact with the kids,” said LeAnne Revell, a research in medicine student from Dalhousie University.

“Distraction has been well researched and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that its a great way to reduce anxiety, distress and pain with pediatric patients.”

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The researchers are hosting a series of focus groups throughout the summer. They’re looking for children and teens age four to 15 who have had their blood drawn at the IWK blood collection clinic before to give their feedback and share ideas about the robot.

“The focus groups are to get an idea of whats the limitations, barriers, how can we implement the robot in the clinic in the best way,” said Revell.

If all goes well, the robot will be available for children to interact with at the blood collection clinic later this year.

They’re also looking for the public’s input in naming the robot and have launched a contest on Facebook.

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