Giving blood: NOW 20% TECHIER!

Today was the first day of a new computerized check-in process at Canadian Blood Services. By chance, I happened to pick today for one of my approximately twice per year donations and had a chance to try it out.

It was high time for an overhaul of a process that was still mostly paper-based and complicated. Some thoughts on it in a moment, but first, here’s what changed:

OLD PROCESS

  1. CHECK IN at front desk. Tell the lady that, no, you don’t want to book your next appointment already.
  2. Go around to the FINGER PRICK desk and receive your first wound of the day, when a nurse tests your hemoglobin levels.
  3. Move over to a little wooden cubicle that looks like it was purchased from a university garage sale and fill out a QUESTIONNAIRE by filling in circles on a piece of paper.
  4. THE INTERVIEW: Wait your turn to get called into a room where another nurse finishes the questionnaire by asking you awkward questions, then takes your blood pressure. Indicate your consent on a piece of paper using a “yes” or “no” sticker.
  5. DONATE BLOOD

NEW PROCESS

  1. CHECK IN at front desk. Tell the lady that, no, you don’t want to book your next appointment already.
  2. Move over to a little wooden cubicle that looks like it was purchased from a university garage sale and fill out a QUESTIONNAIRE by poking a tablet.
  3. THE INTERVIEW: Wait your turn to get called into a room where a nurse tests your hemoglobin levels using the FINGER PRICK test, then takes your blood pressure. Indicate your consent by signing a electronic pad with a stylus.
  4. DONATE BLOOD

As you can see there are now 4 steps instead of 5. When was the last time you heard of an arms-length government agency becoming 20% more efficient?

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It is not, however, 20% faster. In fact it was probably slower. That might be because the same steps need to be completed with one less person to assist along the way, or it may be because it’s a new process and some bugs need to be worked out.

There are some notable positive changes:

  • Donors can answer the questionnaire online at home before heading down to the clinic.
  • More of the personal questions can be answered yourself. Previously the donor would answer half of the ‘test’ in the little wooden cubicle that looks like it was purchased from a university garage sale, but the second half with questions like “In the last six months, have you ever had sex even once with a person who has given money or drugs for sex?” had to be asked in person by the nurse, who would fill out the paper form on your behalf, because apparently you cannot be trusted to answer such a question honestly without another person actually articulating it to you. Now you get to do it yourself on a tablet in the privacy of a little wooden cubicle that looks like it was purchased from a university garage sale.

The process is otherwise pretty similar to how it was before, and in a lot of ways it has to be. I am not going to test my own hemoglobin. However it is good to see CBS taking steps to modernize.

Know what else would be good to see? YOU DONATING BLOOD. Go. It’s not so bad (usually) and you get rewarded with coffee and snacks at the end.

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