World Blood Donor Day: Can Tech Help Increase Blood Donations?

World Blood donor day: Can technology create a world of 100% voluntary, non-paid donations?

Health News
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>World Blood Donor Day: In an ideal world, there would be 100% voluntary, non-paid donations. How is technology taking us there?</p></div>

(14 June is celebrated as World Blood Donor day. In light of it, FIT is republishing this story.)

It’s a frightening thought to be helpless, especially in a situation that doesn't have to be so.

From a car crash to a pregnancy crisis to a complicated surgery to even a fall – what ties these situations is the critical need for safe, healthy blood transfusions, and going without this often under looked resource could even spell death.

In 2005, the WHO initiated the first World Blood Donor Day as a call to action to this solvable health problem, and encourage “100% voluntary, non-paid” donations.

The Current Scenario in India

Speaking to FIT, Dr Abhinav Verma, head of transfusion medicine at Max Hospital said,

Currently in India, every 2 seconds someone needs blood. 1 out of 3 of Indians will need blood at least once in their lives and current, 1 in 10 hospitalised patients need blood at this minute. On a brighter note, 4.5 million lives are saved annually by blood transfusions.

We have an acute shortage of voluntary blood donations – according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) , only 15.5 million units are collected each year in the South-East Asian region against a need of 18 million units.

This is a staggering disparity of 2.5 million units!

Which is dismal as according to WHO, a single person’s decision to donate can save up to three lives, which means the solution is within grasp.

A special focus for this year’s Blood Donor Day is on maternal healthcare with the slogan ‘safe blood for saving mothers.’

WHO reports that globally maternal deaths – during pregnancy, childbirth or in the postpartum period – sit at the massive number of 287000, and 99% of them occur in the developing world.

So donating blood to this end could make a big difference in the lives of those who literally give us life.

Technology to the Rescue - Literally!

We’re now living in a techno-world, and technology is helping take healthcare into the 21st century. The internet has revolutionised health access and awareness, and tech solutions to health issues are becoming increasingly relevant.

Earlier, blood donation camps or drives were localised and limited in their impact, but digital portals can simplify the issues surrounding blood donations, by recruiting donors, raising awareness about blood banks nearby and offering information on the process.

Dr Harpreet Kaur, a consultant in Blood Bank and Transfusion Medicine at Aakash Healthcare Hospital told FIT that social media and technology can help in reaching out and creating awareness and “busting myths” in a larger fashion. She did add, however, that tech needs to work in tandem with local solutions.

A one-on-one connect is important in healthcare, but this can be boosted by tech. For example, we do use apps and social media, but we also host local walkathons where we raise awareness in the surrounding neighborhood and answer questions with local members. 
Dr Harpreet Kaur

Plus, since blood cannot be stored for too long, the need for donors is constant, so social media apps are helpful with their constant reminders, adds Kaur.

Harnessing Communities and Connections for Better Healthcare

While we use the social networking site to post about our day, get news updates and mostly share memes, another vital feature is in creating connections and communities.

Verma says that tech plays a vial role to bridge this gap, especially social media.

We refer patients who come to use to look on groups online or on Whatsapp or Facebook. Especially for voluntary donations, which means people pro-actively volunteer since it is very difficult for a patient in need to go out and find people or relatives.
World Blood Donor Day: Can Tech Help Increase Blood Donations?
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/@donateblood)

The inspiration for Facebook’s specific blood donation feature ‘Blood Donations on Facebook,’ came from there as Ankur Mehra, Facebook’s India media partner tells FIT.

In an ideal world you would go to your local blood bank and the blood would be ready for you with enough supplies. But this doesn’t happen, and we saw that many Facebook users would use the site to post requests for donations or ask for information about nearby blood banks and create groups for the same.

One of the loopholes of the donation process is a lack of awareness about the process itself – how does one register? Where are the blood banks? Can anyone do it? What is the exact procedure?

We [Facebook] created this app to connect those in need with those who want to volunteer.
Ankur Mehra

And with nearly 22 million registered donors as on January 2019, one and a half years after its launch, this tool clearly connects the dots for the community and “answers the how’s and the where’s,” says Mehra.

To reiterate, this feature does not raise awareness or send alerts to everyone on Facebook, you must choose to be a part of the program. It also just connects people in the community to blood banks nearby but cannot vouch for the authenticity of it.

Besides, not everyone can donate blood so it is advisable to get a medical professional’s opinion before complications arise.

From diseases or accidents small or big, blood donations can be the difference between life and death. So this year, pledge to donate blood and save lives, and encourage people around you to do their bit.

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