Banking on the river bankThe fragmented Blood Banking industry in India is in need for a major thrust that only Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can provide. But is the industry ready for the big leap and what solutions do players have to offer?
Monalisa Das, ENN finds out

For a country of 1.2 billion population, having only 2,545 licensed blood banks is an abysmally low figure. This brings us down to a national average of 4.7 lakh population per blood bank. To add to the dismal state, data by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCD) shows that out of the 2,545 blood banks (as on November 2012), 1,564 are run by private players and only 981 are owned by the Government “ hence explaining the existing price variations in the blood bank market.

The widening supply-demand gap of blood and blood components is a major area of concern. Rotary International President, Kalyan Banerjee, in his letter to the incoming district governors of India mentioned: Against an annual demand of 20 million units, only 15 million units are available in India. The crucial fact is that blood banking is one of the most complicated branches of medicine, as it relies solely on the general public for blood donations and not on vendors.

The consumers, too, are from the general population only. However, considering the myriad myths regarding blood donation, absence of a centralised donor registry and the poor donor relation management, low rate of repeat voluntary blood donations
is obvious.

Also there is no uniformity in quality inputs of the blood thats collected from different blood banks across the nation as there are no centralised protocols regarding the tests to be conducted on collected blood. Another concern is that being a highly perishable product, blood can neither be stockpiled nor sourced suddenly. The dynamics of the blood banking industry demand a very short response time. Thus, an effective and fast communication and interfacing system becomes a must for the smooth operation of blood banks.

Technology helps

ICT solutions provide an immediate and effective mechanism for connecting the donor with a recipient in real-time. Apart from offering an effective communication interface, ICT can also offer meaningful analytics of the data available, hence improving end-to-end supply chain management of blood banks.

ICT helps collate all information and maintains a centralised database, which improves the overall supply chain management. Through effective ICT, patients have an access to updated information regarding the availability of blood and blood components online, says Dr Anju Verma, Chief Medical Officer, Rotary Blood Bank. We need to further work on maintaining blood donor registry and perform advance tests in order to make compatible and safe blood available for all patients, she adds.

With advancement of newer technology in collection, separation of components and storage of blood, the initial phase of ICT has already entered most blood banks, especially in metro cities. The need of the hour is a system for managing this vast information. And this calls for the next phase of ICT implementation by the blood banking industry.

Online portals such as www.indianblooddonors. com, use of multimedia through voice calls, SMSs, and email alerts are already helping in bridging the huge supply demand gap. Newer technologies, such as Bloodline “ a mobile web-based service
that leverages upon smartphone technology, webmapping, GPRS and cloud computing facilities “ are entering the market too, thus enabling realtime communication between healthcare facilities and blood donors. Social media too has a big role to play in addressing the challenges. Facebook pages like Blood Bank India and Jeevan Blood Bank are a classic example of this change.

Recently a commendable initiative of Gujarat FDCA aims to provide quick access to healthcare in emergency situations and has set up a network of blood banks. Plans also seem to include an SMS feature in the portal to further improve the efficiency of this process. More such initiatives need to be undertaken by regulators of public health in the country.

With growing awareness, increasing efforts to make quality blood available to all, stringent regulatory and healthcare policies adopted across the world, the global market for blood banking and blood products is expected to touch USD 36 billion by the year 2015 and USD 43 billion by 2018. In the future, more and more blood banks will adopt ICT to increase blood donation rates, ensure safer blood transfusion and enhance haemo vigilance.

We talk to industry experts and players for their insight on these issues. Excerpts:

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