For most people, the process of blood donation appears simple and straightforward: you lounge on a chair for 20-30 minutes as your blood collects into a bag, grab a cookie and some juice, then head back to the rest of your day. Behind the scenes, however, running a blood bank can be a complex operation. Donations must be correctly typed, labelled, catalogued, and stored. And in the case of plasma, donations must be carefully kept at a proper temperature, around -32ºC (-26ºF). In much of the world, plasma storage consists basically of industrial freezers containing marked boxes of donated plasma that must be retrieved manually.
During our recent trip to Poland, we paid a visit to the Regional Blood Donation Center in the capital city of Warsaw to see how the Poles are utilizing technology to help manage blood donations. The building itself was quite large for a blood blank, consisting of several floors of labs, patient areas, and storage units. We were also surprised by the significant number of people waiting in the lobby to donate during our early morning visit. As with most other countries, donating blood in Poland is completely voluntary, and donors are not paid, so it was nice to see the generosity of Polish people in action.
While the patient areas of the blood bank are similar to most others, we stepped into the processing labs to see the CoolSystems Blood Labeling Robot in action. Created by M2M Team, which is also based in Warsaw, the unit automates the blood donation cataloguing process in just 20 seconds by scanning the unit into a database and crimping and labeling the plastic tubing attached to the bag into several sections that can be detached for crossmatching and testing. Here’s a look at how the robot works:
Continuing through the maze-like passageways of the donation center, we arrived in the plasma storage area. Housed here is M2M’s flagship product, the CoolSystems Automated Plasma Storage System. The system is a combination storage cold chamber, cataloguing, and retrieval solution for plasma; samples are systematically kept in a multi-level, closed, climate-controlled chamber. To store a sample, the user simply scans the barcode on the bag of plasma, waits a few seconds as the system rotates and brings the proper shelf to the user’s level, then opens a door and places the bag onto the shelf.
The entire system can hold up to 25,000 units of plasma and takes up 70% less storage space than traditional plasma cold chambers. Consequently, a smaller footprint results in up to a 50% savings in energy costs. Of course, the user also stays warm and safe, as he/she doesn’t need to don heavy jackets or spend excessive time inside the freezers looking for the right plasma type.
Throughout our visit, the M2M Team pointed out some of their other technologies that were being used at the blood donation center. These included cloud-connected sensors (see photo on right) for monitoring the temperature and humidity of storage units, mobile blood transportation equipment, and a modern bloodmobile bus that was designed in partnership with Mercedes-Benz.
It was exciting to see advanced technology being utilized in the process of blood donations!
More info: CoolSystems website