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Brother Could You Spare a Pint? Redesigning Blood Donation

How can the experience of blood donation be redesigned? Few eligible people donate despite the need. Here's a solution from design students.


How can the experience of blood donation be redesigned? In the U.K., where I live, only 4 percent of eligible people donate, despite great need. For our final project in ‘Innovation Design Engineering,' a double graduate degree at The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, Dan McLaughlin, James Wright, Zhanling Feng and I embarked on a mission to re-imagine the future of mobile blood donation in the U.K. and subsequently the world.
The early research stages involved finding out our blood types, discussing barriers to donation, talking to stakeholders and visiting mobile and permanent blood donation units, where Dan and Zhanling gave blood.
There are several challenges with the current system. We found out that less than 40 percent of the U.K. population know their blood type—finding out through doctors is expensive, and the alternative is purchasing a kit online. On average, it takes 11 people an hour to set up a mobile donation area. Injuries from needles is another problem, and cost the NHS up to £650,000 ($1,008,865) per incident; in 2011 there were 118 injuries.
Increased participation and re-donation is necessary for the future, as the population ages and increases. Catching young donors is particularly important. We wanted to improve the mobile blood donation service on the whole: for donors, donation staff and the NHS Blood Service.
We ended up creating Haemobility, a re-imagination of mobile blood donation. Haemobility addresses the need for wider and returning participation within our growing and aging population. Through Haemobility, we're aiming for greater awareness of blood donation, a better experience for donors, and increased safety for medical staff.


A simple and intuitive low-cost testing device, available in first aid kits and sent with official application forms, reveals blood type. Haemobility increases the visibility of the blood donation process in daily life with blood stocks shown in visual media and through the dispersal of new hyper-mobile blood donation units, each designed to deliver ten donations per day.


Our system utilises a completely online sign-up, while the units allow for donations to take place in diverse locations, making tasks easier and safer for nurses, and making the experience better for donors by cutting donation time down from 1.5 hours to 15 minutes. Later, donors receive feedback about their blood destination, validating their donation.
The new safer needle carrier design is less intimidating and reduces the chance of needlestick injuries for donation staff, with a retractable needle and sea mammal-inspired form that sits steady on the donor's arm.

By delivering an enhanced experience and innovative equipment, Haemobility encourages increased participation within a larger, more diverse pool of lifetime donors.
This Friday I will donate blood for the first time. Having tried to put myself in the mindset of key stakeholders and visualizing a human-focused experience that will raise donations, has allowed me to feel a responsibility towards giving and a connection towards my role within the system.
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This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship. This week: Give Blood. Follow along, join the discussion, and share your experience at #goodcitizen.\n
Images courtesy of Ama Darko Williams, Dan McLaughlin, James Wright, Zhanling Feng.\n

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