Date
24 May 2017
Hong Kong Red Cross has suffered from the spread of nasty rumors such the one about donated blood being sold to mainlanders. This goes to show that a lack of transparency could hurt operations. Photo: HK Red Cross
Hong Kong Red Cross has suffered from the spread of nasty rumors such the one about donated blood being sold to mainlanders. This goes to show that a lack of transparency could hurt operations. Photo: HK Red Cross

Once a pioneer, Hong Kong Red Cross has fallen way behind

One of my friends donated blood in Sydney late last month.

In less than a week, he received a text message from the local Red Cross, informing him that his blood had been used to save a patient.

While most donors give blood because they regard it as the right thing to do, some may still be wondering whether they are really helping others.

To give more feedback and incentive to donors, Red Cross Australia piloted a program in several cities to send out messages to donors such as the one my friend received.

The new measure has been cited for the rise in the number of donors and the frequency of their donations.

Given the strong response, it soon became a national program.

As donors feel they are doing something meaningful, they are more likely to look forward to the next opportunity they could donate again.

While informing donors about when and where their blood has been used, Red Cross Australia won’t reveal information about the patient’s identity, thus striking a balance between transparency and privacy protection.

Sending out notifications under the program does not involve any cutting-edge technology.

Red Cross Australia simply has to put a barcode on each parcel of blood and input the data into a nationwide healthcare database.

When the blood is used, the system will automatically send an SMS to the donor’s mobile phone.

Britain is more advanced. Researchers there are studying how to use blockchain technology to record and track the blood bag in a bid to cut costs and improve efficiency and accuracy.

Two years ago, the US Red Cross started to adopt big data and artificial intelligence technology to forecast cyclical changes in blood usage and predict demand for different blood types based on population parameters like race, age and medical records.

Hong Kong Red Cross should definitely consider adopting some of these practices.

The local chapter was once a pioneer in organizing blood donation campaigns. It was one of the first to introduce a mobile service.

However, it seems to have fallen victim to its own success and has become a serious laggard compared to other countries.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 8

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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