Health officials are opting to use social media and text messaging to battle blood shortages and encourage more people to donate.
Blood donation is heavily dependent on volunteers and can help save many lives. In the United States, a network of hospital-based collection centers, non-profit organizations, the NIH Blood Bank and the U.S. Department of Defense's Armed Services Blood Program are required to ensure blood is donated to those who need it like patients suffering traumatic injuries, undergoing surgery, receiving treatment for cancer or blood disorders, as well as new mothers and premature babies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Did you know that Sweden sends a text message to blood donors when their blood has been used? Relying on voluntary, unpaid blood donors to maintain its supply, this is a way for Sweden to encourage people to donate. Are you a blood donor? ❤️ https://t.co/epkV16BEvx pic.twitter.com/0OfG6etOqT— Sweden (@Sweden) March 6, 2020
In Sweden, health officials are using technology to keep stocks up and thanking those who donate blood. Not only do they get a "thank you" text, but blood donors also receive a text message whenever their blood saves someone's life. "We are constantly trying to develop ways to express [donors'] importance," Karolina Blom Wiberg, a communications manager at the Stockholm blood service, told The Independent. "We want to give them feedback on their effort, and we find this is a good way to do that." The initiative has been a topic of conversation online thanks to a viral tweet from Swedish designer Robert Lenne.
If you donate blood in Sweden the county council will text you when your blood is used. pic.twitter.com/4Ycf5O6m3F— Robert Lenne (@robertlenne) June 8, 2015
"It's a great feeling to know you made such a big difference and maybe even saved someone else's life," Blom Wiberg said. "We get a lot of visibility in social media and traditional media thanks to the SMS. But above all, we believe it makes our donors come back to us and donate again." Swedish blood banks hope to connect with younger blood donors to battle low blood donations.
"Social media is an extremely important channel for us to reach our donors. Sweden needs more young donors to have stable blood supplies in the future," explained Lottie Furugård, a communications manager at Stockholm's blood center. There even is a "nag me until I become a blood donor" option under the text program, according to Ragan's Health Care Communication News. People who opt for it will receive texts like "We won't give up until you bleed" to not so subtly encourage blood donation.
"We simply can't ignore the fact that there has been a stark reduction in the number of new donors coming forward - a trend seen across the world," Jon Latham, the organization's assistant director for donor services, added. "While we can meet the needs of patients now, it's important we strengthen the donor base for the future." As officials try different methods to appeal to volunteers, at the end of the day, it's about saving a life. "Our challenge is to make the public and especially the blood donators understand just how important their contribution is," Blom Wiberg shared.
TIME reports that the U.S. too has ways to track blood donations. In 2014, a Blood Donor App was launched to track the journey of the donation, according to Kara Lusk Dudley, public affairs manager in biomedical communications at the American Red Cross. Donors are notified via email when their donation is shipped.