Blood shortages are all around us
Every 2 seconds, someone in the United States needs blood1. In fact, roughly 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day1. To put this number into perspective, a donor can only provide 1-2 units of red blood cells in a standard blood donation procedure2.
With 38% of our population eligible to donate, you might think it wouldn’t be difficult to accumulate enough blood to meet demand1. However, only 10% of those eligible patients will actually donate blood every year1, equally just 3.8% active donors altogether. With such a large demand, and small percentage of active donors, it’s easy to see how quickly we can fall into a blood shortage.
How is the medical field responding?
Hospitals and medical centers alike cancelled hundreds of elective surgeries this year in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Atlanta3. With such a short supply of blood, many hospitals are trying to conserve their supply for emergency surgeries and unpredictable traumatic events.
Charities like American Red Cross host more than 145,000 blood drives throughout the country each year, through community organizations, companies, high schools, colleges, places of worship, and military installations1. American Red Cross makes blood available to any patient who needs it, meaning the patient is not responsible for finding their own donors and can instead focus on recovery and health.
Can we fix the shortage?
To eliminate the shortage completely would require a significant portion of our population to actively seek out blood donation clinics. In an ideal world, this would be easy! But unfortunately, it just won’t happen until the public is educated on how important blood donation is, and how it’s an essential part of our healthcare system. That’s where the nation’s pharmacists, physicians, and other healthcare providers come into play.
Healthcare providers can have overwhelming influence and educational power when it comes to their patients and their health5. If more healthcare providers prescreened their patients for eligibility and educated them on the need for blood donation, we could take one very big step towards closing the gap between the amount of blood needed and what is regularly available.
In addition, blood donation centers can adopt more sophisticated recruitment and marketing strategies, like automated appointment-reminders and patient-prep information. Technological enhancements like this have been shown to reduce no-show rates by more than 20% in a 30-day period4. All it takes is a simple text message to remind the patient of their upcoming appointment, provide information on how to prepare (eat well, keep hydrated and get a full night’s sleep), and remind them that they are saving a life, and sometimes more than one, with their donation!
- Blood Facts and Statistics. (n.d.). American Red Cross. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-facts-and-statistics
- Types of Blood Donations. (n.d.). Carter BloodCare. Retrieved October 11, 2017 from http://www.carterbloodcare.org/blood-facts/types-of-donations/.
- Increase Blood Donations. (2017, April 22). Healthaware. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://healthaware.com/increase-blood-donations-eliminate-no-shows-kare-n/.
- Americans Rate Healthcare Providers High on Honesty Ethics. (2016, December 19). Gallup. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from http://news.gallup.com/poll/200057/americans-rate-healthcare-providers-high-honesty-ethics.aspx.