Facebook is now expanding its blood donation feature to US users. The technology, which lets Facebook users sign up as a blood donor and then gives them a notification when blood banks near them are in need, is expected to roll out in the US in the next few months.
The program kicked off in India in 2017. Last year the social media giant introduced the program to Pakistan, Brazil, India and Bangladesh. Since launch, 35 million people have singed up as blood donors in the countries.
The Facebook initiative was led by Hema Budaraju, product management director.
“We had observed that there were a lot of posts and activity on Facebook related to people asking for blood donors and these were in the range of thousands per week when you look at India and Pakistan,” Budaraju told MobiHealthNews.
The team talked to potential users in order to get an idea of what was needed.
“We spent a lot of time in the field talking to health experts, talking to donors, talking to bloods banks and looking at how Facebook can play a role in making it easy to donate blood. What we learned in our journey is that people are willing to give but they need to know information and need to know when where and how — and we believe we can create tools to make it easier.”
Budaraju said that the organization is already talking to stakeholders in the US about how best to implement the program in the future.
Why it matters
According to the CDC, there are more than 9.5 million blood donors in the US and around 5 million people who receive the blood. Still, supply can't always meet demand, according to the American Red Cross, who say that 36,000 units of red blood cells, nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed in the US each day. The Red Cross has had a blood donor app since 2014, but continues to look for ways to engage and recruit donors.
What's the trend
Facebook has been actively entering the health space in recent years. Last year it teamed up with the Canadian government on an initiative to use artificial intelligence to help track social media posts that could indicate someone is at risk of suicide.
In April CNBC reported that the social media giant was planning to team up with major US hospitals, hoping to obtain data from the providers about patient care.
On the record
“Blood is such an important component of any country’s infrastructure," Budaraju said. "And asking someone to go on their own time and dime to donate blood to perfect strangers — this is a phenomenal act of giving and people are literally giving a piece of themselves to help someone out. I think the way that we can try and make it possible for more people to donate blood is to help with knowledge, help with information and help with conveience. At the end of the day, community drives blood donation.”