Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recent research has shown that SMS text messages can increase opportunities for volunteers to donate blood. By utilizing mobile technology, researchers have discovered that donors are more likely to respond to a text than any other medium.

The two most likely factors contributing to an increase in donor awareness and participation are the open rates of text messages and the ubiquity of cell phones. Many means of communication don’t yield response rates the way text messaging does. People screen their calls, fail to open their emails, or have a high spam filter in the inbox. Over 90% of SMS text messages, on the other hand, are open and read within minutes of receipt, according to studies.

The common use of cell phones is clearly the most important factor, however. More than half the world’s population now uses a cellular device, while over 90% of American adults are mobile users, per Pew research. Combined with the effective open rates of SMS, the prevalence of mobile device use makes text messaging a robust way of communicating with all potential donors.

The following strategies have proven to maximize the effectiveness of text messages in order to increase blood donor participation.

Provide options for potential donors.

An app used in India called the 24/7 Donor Response System caters to potential blood donors. Once a volunteer has opted-in to the system by providing their blood type and age, the system tracks their location and donation frequency, sending them reminders to donate when applicable. If they have recently donated, the system will not contact them for several months. Also, donors who will be out of the area (or wish to opt-out of the program) may send simple SMS messages to the system to change their donation status.

Give a callback number for more information.

When a reminder text message is sent out to a potential donor, it is helpful to provide a callback number. This allows donors to reschedule or ask questions that go beyond the 160 characters of a simple SMS message. It also puts donors at ease about the process as well, knowing they may contact a professional if they have concerns.

Customize messages for different types of donations.

Many donors have only participated in simple blood donations, and often infrequently. The goal of any blood center is to create lifelong donors, who will consider volunteering to donate platelets or plasma as well. By keeping track of what type of donor a blood center is dealing with, a more unique message may be created for their donation type, hopefully converting them into a lifelong donor.

Blood donors are obviously interested in being part of a good cause. Why not make it easy and efficient for them to volunteer? Using mobile technology, such as SMS text messaging, can make it even simpler for donors to get involved, and ultimately for everyone involved to make a real difference in the healthcare field.