What Will It Take For Folks To Open Their Veins?


Are younger demos so squeamish they need the promise of a mixed-reality experience to donate blood?

Ok, whatever it take. Right now some entities -- including nonprofit Vitalant, which supplies blood to 900 hospitals nationwide -- are declaring a blood emergency due to shortages.

Even in the best of times, though, “the need for blood is constant,” so “we're continually looking for smart new ways that will appeal to people who have never donated before or may be apprehensive,” Blood Centers of America (BCA) chairperson Harpreet K. Sandhu explains in a statement.

That’s why BCA, whose 60+ independent facilities collect and distribute 50% of the U.S. blood supply,  teamed with healthcare company Abbott to offer blood donors “an innovative, immersive digital experience.”

Abbott cites research showing that people would prefer to give blood in natural settings.

But setting up donor sites at beaches or parks may not be feasible. Instead, donors can wear Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality headsets to bring them into a “whimsical garden while listening to soothing music, planting seeds that grow into colorful trees and flowers.”

Sounds delightful! But how safe is it?

Abbott says donors “remain fully aware of their surroundings, ensuring a seamless, convenient and safe donation.” And since donors’ eyes are always visible, blood donation workers are expected to do “constant monitoring and evaluation.”

Furthermore, donors receive “a quick tutorial on the headsets and the mixed reality world prior to use.”

Don’t go rushing to your nearest BCA facility for mixed reality blood-giving yet, though. For the moment, the technology is merely being piloted at select Centers nationwide, Abbott and BCA say.

In another innovative bid for donors, Vitalant said that everyone who gives blood at a a Vitalant location through Jan. 20 will be entered in a sweepstakes to win tickets, travel, accommodations and more at the Super Bowl. That’s a package valued at a hefty price: $27,400, according to Vitalant.

In a less pricey promotion, ImpactLife, which operates 22 blood centers in the Midwest, this week wraps up a one-month deal that offered first-time donors a $25 electronic gift card (or a donation to Feeding America).

"The overall rate of blood donation has decreased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and that decrease persists even though many aspects of life have returned to a 'new normal,'" states Kate Fry, chief executive officer of America's Blood Centers, whose member organizations operate more than 600 blood collection sites. "This is concerning because donors who give for the first time not only help save lives today, but they represent the future of our nation's blood supply.”

And that’s the fixed reality that mixed reality can help create.

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