Mitigating Children’s Pain and Anxiety during Blood Draw Using Social Robots

Authors Matthijs Smakman, Koen Smit, Lotte Buser, Tom Monshouwer, Nigel van Putten, Thymen Trip, Coen Schoof, Daniel Preciado, Elly A. Konijn, Esther van der Roest, Wouter Tiel Groenestege
Published in Electronics
Publication date 10 May 2021
Research groups Digital Ethics
Type Article


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. We first programmed a social robot based on the requirements expressed by experienced healthcare professionals during focus group 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. 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 toward 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 a new and effective tool for lowering children’s anxiety prior to the distressing medical procedure of blood collection.

On this publication contributed

Language English
Published in Electronics
Year and volume 10 10
Key words social robot, pain, anxiety, blood draw, distraction, children
Digital Object Identifier

Matthijs Smakman