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Donating connects

The aim of the "Statusplus® Blood Donation" smart phone app is to encourage people to regularly donate blood. The design prototype, which has recently won an award at the Healthcare Hackathon, is now being technically implemented.

Kathrin Boersch
© Kathrin Boersch

Kathrin Boersch wants to improve people’s readiness to donate blood in Germany.

"The plasma from your whole blood donation was used 3 days ago! Thank you very much again for donating blood..." This could be the push message of the blood donation app currently being developed by Professor Andre Franke’s research group at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) at Kiel University. The message with details on the use of the donation underlines its importance and is at the same time designed to motivate people to donate again in the future. The data needed for such messages is already available.

"From the moment someone donates blood at the centre for transfusion medicine, every step is scanned. We want our app to connect to this system," explains project manager Kathrin Boersch, who already has a proven track record in web design. In her Master’s thesis, the communication designer developed the Statusplus® test subject portal. This project, which is unique in Germany and supported by the Excellence Cluster "Inflammation at Interfaces" at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology, has been designed to provide participants of clinical trials with easy access to complex medical data.

The primary goal of the new app is to encourage people to donate blood. "People’s willingness to donate blood is not that great in Germany," says Boersch. "Only three percent of all Germans donate blood, although 33 percent would be able to. And 80 percent of all Germans will need a blood donation at some point in their life. With our app, we want to create incentives and support potential donors."

App screen
© Kathrin Boersch

Via the app, donors will, for example, automatically receive the results of their blood test. "Normally you only get a letter saying that everything is fine or that you need to come by again. In our app, we also want to include your actual health data that was collected." It would be easy, for example, to record the development of blood values such as haemoglobin levels during the course of the donation. This would immediately reveal any issues, like a critically low supply of iron in the blood. A preliminary self-check is also intended to be included in the app. This will check whether there are any objections to a blood donation.

Another function is to do with the recruitment of new donors. "Most people come to donate blood because they had some personal experiences, for example because someone has told them about it or someone in their environment needed a blood donation. Using the ‘Team’ function, I can invite people from my circle of friends or from my workplace to a group. We would then arrange to donate blood together as a group. It’s the same as in sports: together it’s more fun than alone," says the Muthesius graduate, who specialises in interface design.

The original plan was to develop a digital blood donor card. This card was supposed to document the blood group, important blood values and in particular the individual genetic blood group fingerprint, which characterises the blood group even more precisely. "If the donors themselves ever need blood, this makes it much easier to find a match for them," explains Boersch. On the basis of this idea and in cooperation with the Institute for Transfusion Medicine at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (Head: Professor Siegfried Görg) and the Swiss Red Cross, a concept for a blood donation app was developed that can do much more than just store your own blood analysis data.

Together with two web developers and a computer scientist, Boersch entered the app in the 2018 Healthcare Hackathon. The design prototype developed in the competition was awarded a prize of 10,000 Euros. This money is now being used for the technical implementation. However, there are still some tough nuts to crack. "While the data for the app is readily available, the crux of the matter is collecting information in a way that we can process it and also store it safely," says Boersch.

Author: Kerstin Nees