The Foundation for America’s Blood Centers (FABC) funds initiatives that improve the availability, quality, and safety of blood to save, extend, or enhance the lives of patients. The FABC works through funding projects spearheaded by America’s Blood Centers’ members, as well as ABC initiatives that benefit its member blood centers.
Blood centers in the US and other wealthy nations dispose of millions of dollars of blood collection and processing equipment each year in favor of more updated equipment. Meanwhile, thousands of people in poorer nations go without sufficient or safe blood products due to lacking resources. For the first time, Global Blood Fund (GBF) offers a solution to this common issue – connecting blood centers in wealthy nations with blood centers in resource-scarce nations.
GBF, a non-profit charity focused on improving blood safety and availability in developing countries, announced this week that it will launch EqXchange, a new online blood equipment exchange portal, at the AABB Annual Meeting & CTTXPO in Denver, Colo., to be held Oct. 12 to 15. EqXchange, developed with a grant from the Foundation for America’s Blood Centers (FABC), is an online cloud-based portal that offers a simple way for well-resourced blood services to donate surplus equipment to their counterparts in low-income countries.
GBF has often found that blood centers in the US and Europe want to donate their excess equipment to blood centers in poorer countries. In the past, this has been done on an individual basis with GBF reach- ing out to various blood center contacts in middle- and low-income countries to determine what centers need that particular equipment, said GBF Executive Director Gavin Evans. Past donations have ranged from clinical uniforms, to plasmapheresis machines, to portable donation beds, to centrifuges.
“As well as being very labor intensive, the shortcoming of doing things this way is that it is very seren- dipitous. We know there are many suitable items we never hear about and which, as a consequence, are simply thrown away – a wasted opportunity,” said Mr. Evans. “And we know that there are many in-need blood services in resource-scarce countries for which such items would make a real difference, but are simply not on the radar.”
Through the online portal, well-resourced blood centers can advertise excess equipment available for donation using simple dropdown menus to select the appropriate categories. Similarly, blood centers in resource-scarce countries can advertise their specific equipment needs through the portal. EqXchange also allows the blood centers and other blood banking experts to list the availability of or need for technical expertise.
Once a match is made between a center donating equipment and a recipient center, GBF provides logisti- cal assistance to ship the items, which can be funded through the donating blood center if it wishes to do so. If the donating center prefers not to provide financial support, GBF will use income from its Open Arms program or other charitable resources to fund shipment. Open Arms creates partnerships with par- ticipating US blood centers whereby blood donors are given a charitable alternative to the traditional donor recognition items – T-shirts, mugs, etc. Rather than receiving the recognition item, the donor in- stead chooses to have the blood center make a donation on the donor’s behalf to GBF.
Development of EqXchange began with a match-funded grant awarded by the FABC in early 2013 to cover the start-up costs, for which GBF is “extremely grateful,” said Mr. Evans. On the technical side, GBF partnered with Aidmatrix Foundation, a US non-profit that provides the interface for many organizations involved in resource reallocation. A number of US and European blood centers helped GBF develop the categories used in the drop-down menus that drive the system. MacoPharma USA donated warehouse space and logistical support in its Atlanta facility, where it will store items that cannot be shipped imme- diately from the donating blood center to the recipient center.
GBF is currently in the final stages of testing the portal prior to its launch at the AABB’s CTTPXO. Working with experts in the US and Europe and with contacts across Africa has assured GBF that the system will meet user requirements, said Mr. Evans. Once the GBF launches EqXchange, it will work to raise awareness of the portal. “We need potential donating centers to know that the portal exists and that it offers them an easy-to-use and very worthwhile alternative to equipment disposal. And blood centers in Africa, South America, Asia, and Eastern Europe need to know that they can publish their needs and have them seen around the world by people in a position to help,” said Mr. Evans.
He added that GBF expects the portal to grow over time as more organizations use it routinely and embed its functionality into their operations. “We hope it will transform the way our industry operates and help to bring blood collectors in rich and poor countries even closer together, united by our common mission,” he said.
“The equipment exchange portal is an innovative project that promises to help improve blood safety and availability in developing counties, and the FABC is excited to see this new initiative launched. Our vi- sion is to help ensure patients have access to a safe and adequate supply of blood components; this initiative is an example of how we can move our vision closer to reality,” said FABC Board Member Whitney Green, senior vice president of Molecular Diagnostics at Roche Diagnostics Corp.
For more information on EqXchange and the Open Arms program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.globalbloodfund.org. Those attending the upcoming AABB Annual Meeting can learn more about EqXchange and GBF’s other programs by visiting booth #2110 in the CTTXPO hall. To learn more about other grant projects funded by the FABC, please visit http://members.americasblood.org/go.cfm?do=Page.View&pid=29