NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- Nobody likes being stuck with a needle. Now, a new device that helps show patients' veins is helping to reduce those uncomfortable pokes.
The two VeinViewer instruments that North Hills Hospital started using last week should cut resticks in half, addressing a common complaint among patients, said Clint Magee, director of the progressive care unit.
"We had a nursing student who'd only done one vein prior to using it, and she found the vein the first time," said Magee, whose unit cares for patients who are transitioning out of intensive care and who frequently need IVs or other procedures involving needles.
It's not just a matter of patient comfort. There could be money at stake, too.
Starting in October, 1 percent of hospitals' Medicare reimbursements will depend on patient satisfaction levels and other quality measures.
And "90 percent of people admitted to the hospital get an IV," said Jean Laborde, area sales representative for VeinViewer's maker, Christie Medical Holdings.
The needle stick that accompanies an IV is "often the first interaction a patient has in the hospital," Laborde said. When it takes multiple attempts to find a vein, "your whole hospital experience is off to a negative start," she said.
The instrument uses a near-infrared light that penetrates just below the skin and reflects off blood vessels. VeinViewer senses hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component in blood, which an onboard computer uses to distinguish veins from arteries. It then projects an image of veins on the skin surface in a green light.
It's especially useful on dark-skinned patients, whose blue veins aren't readily visible, and overweight patients, whose veins tend to be deeper. It also highlights the tiny veins of infants.
"It's a great tool to reduce a baby's stress," Ginny Johnson, director of women's services at North Hills, said as she demonstrated the instrument on 1-day-old Zoey White. Helped by a little rubbing of her wrist, VeinViewer traced Zoey's threadlike veins as she awoke from a nap. Memphis-based Christie Medical says the $17,000 instrument is 97 percent accurate in showing the width of veins. Laborde said the newest version of the VeinViewer, the one North Hills has, was introduced in 2010. About 15 to 20 of the devices are in use in Dallas-Fort Worth hospitals, she said, and a couple of thousand nationwide.
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