Exploring how social robots can improve children’s well-being during hospitalization

Young pediatric patients who undergo venipuncture or capillary blood sampling often experience high levels of pain and anxiety. This often results in distressed young patients and their parents, increased treatment times, and a higher workload for healthcare professionals. Social robots are a new and promising tool to mitigate children’s pain and anxiety.


This study aims to purposefully design and test a social robot for mitigating stress and anxiety during blood draw of children.


Children who interacted with the robot showed significantly lower levels of anxiety
before actual blood collection compared to children who received regular medical
treatment. Children in the middle classes of primary school (aged 6-9) seemed
especially sensitive to the robot’s ability to mitigate pain and anxiety before blood
draw. Children’s parents overall expressed strong positive attitudes towards the
use and effectiveness of the social robot for mitigating pain and anxiety. The
results of this study demonstrate that social robots can be considered as a new,
effective tool for lowering children’s anxiety prior to the distressing medical
procedure of blood collection.


01 September 2020 - 01 July 2021


We first designed a social robot based on the requirements expressed by
experienced healthcare professionals during focus groups sessions. Next, we
designed a randomized controlled experiment in which the social robot was
applied as a distraction method to measure its capacity to mitigate pain and
anxiety in children during blood draw in a children’s hospital setting.

"By using the robots, we hope that children will be less nervous when blood has to be drawn


Anneke van Vuuren

Wilhelmina Children's Hospital

HU researchers involved in the research

Related research groups

Collaboration with knowledge partners

VU Amsterdam

UMC Utrecht/ Wilhelmina kinderziekenhuis


Would you like to collaborate or do you have any questions?

Professor Matthijs Smakman

Matthijs Smakman

  • Professor
  • Research group: Smart Systems for Healthy Living