Robots Rule the UVa Health System

On Tuesday, the University of Virginia Health System announced that it is using robots instead of people. Well, sort of.

UVa has altered its method for collecting and testing blood. Instead of employing a human nurse or lab technician, the university’s primary testing facility is using robots to automate the blood sampling process.

These robots are high-tech. They gauge test results efficiently and are able conduct a greater range of blood exams for doctors’ use. In many cases, this difference in speed dictates who lives and who dies.

“We are known for receiving the sickest patients, and we want to get the correct treatment to them as rapidly as possible,” explained UVa Director of Clinical Chemistry Doris Haverstick, PhD.

So how do these robots work? According to employees at the UVa Clinical Core Laboratory, the robots sample, examine, and store a patient’s blood–all without lifting a single human finger.

“As soon as somebody decides what test they want, they punch it in the computer,” explained the lab Senior Manager Randy Vandevander. “Their computer talks to our computer, and it will be done in no time.”

All of this takes a fraction of the time it would for a person to complete. In fact, the efficiency and ease of the system has led the UVa lab to become entirely automated.

This development amazes some and worries other. While lab employees fear replacement by robots, Vandevander has assured skeptics that devices like those used in the Charlottesville facility only ease their workloads.

“Our technologists can get back to doing what they were trained to do, and that’s looking at the results that are coming up on these analyzers,” he said.

To learn more and witness the robots in action, click here to watch the Medicine Virginia video.


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