Summary: A new study reveals that using minimally invasive blood collection devices can significantly increase the involvement of people experiencing homelessness in public health research.


  1. Minimally invasive blood collection methods lead to higher participation rates among people experiencing homelessness in health studies.
  2. The alternative blood collection method showed a 53% increase in successful blood collections compared to traditional venipuncture.
  3. Approximately 94% of participants preferred the minimally invasive device over venipuncture, indicating its potential for broader acceptance and use.

A new study demonstrates that minimally invasive blood collection devices could increase the participation of people experiencing homelessness (PEH) in public health studies and clinical research. This finding, which was presented in the Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine’s (formerly AACC’s) The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine, may help improve medical care for this historically underrepresented and underserved population.

Improving the Handling of Public Health Emergencies

In public health emergencies caused by infectious diseases, studies known as seroprevalence studies are needed to better understand the disease in affected populations and inform targeted prevention measures. These studies typically test blood collected from participants’ veins. However, this collection method, which is known as venipuncture, is invasive and sometimes unsuccessful in participants who are underweight or have damaged or difficult-to-visualize veins. This can result in the exclusion of PEH from seroprevalence studies. Compared to the general population, they are more commonly underweight and are more likely to have damaged veins due to intravenous drug use.

Addressing the Mpox Outbreak

During the 2022-23 outbreak of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox), PEH were disproportionately affected by severe mpox disease and mpox-related death. A team of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers therefore set out to conduct a seroprevalence study in PEH. This team was led by Grace E. Marx, MD. Knowing that venipuncture is a barrier to PEH participating in public health studies, Marx’s team also decided to simultaneously investigate how alternative methods of blood collection could promote the inclusion of PEH in mpox research.

Further reading: Is Blood Collection Poised for a Paradigm Shift?

Using Minimally Invasive Blood Collection

In addition to venipuncture, they offered study participants, all of whom were PEH, the option to use a minimally invasive blood collection device that draws blood from capillaries rather than from veins. Blood collection was unsuccessful for almost a quarter of participants who chose venipuncture, but more than two-thirds of those same participants had successful blood collections when using the minimally invasive device. 94% of participants who used the device stated that they preferred it to venipuncture.

Overall, use of the device increased the total number of successful blood collections by 53%. This encouraging finding suggests that alternative, less-invasive methods of blood collection can help ensure the inclusion of people in public health research who otherwise might be excluded.

“We conclude that the microneedle blood collection device used in this study is an acceptable and useful supplemental method to venipuncture,” the study’s authors wrote. “These devices may increase representation of populations who could be reluctant or unable to participate, including PEH.”