The South African National Blood Services (SANBS)  has launched a smart blood fridge, aimed at reducing turnaround times for patients to receive blood. 

The fridge, called Bophelo, is currently being piloted at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg. It operates as a vending machine and healthcare workers use a unique code sent to them by SANBS to access cross-matched blood.

Improved availability of blood

SANBS CEO Ravi Reddy says Rahima Moosa was selected for the pilot because of its high demand for blood and proximity to the SANBS head office.  This allows for the remotely controlled automated fridge to be monitored as a trial for teething problems.

Bophelo is expected to improve supply reliability at hospitals that do not have blood banks on site. The SANBS  will monitor stocks remotely and make blood available when needed.

“The smart fridge is an important technological innovation under the SANBS health strategy and contributes towards improving accessibility to healthcare for all and the creation of a sustainable future for the organisation,” says Reddy.

Many hospitals do not have blood banks

According to SANBS representative, Rethabile Melato, they currently have 83 blood banks servicing close to 500 hospitals countrywide. 

“Many hospitals do not have blood banks on site as most of the blood banks are in provincial hospitals and a few in private. We often face challenges of blood delivery especially in rural areas because of distance,” says Melato.

The other challenge they face is blood wastage because of over ordering, and excessive use of group O blood from emergency fridges. Not having blood banks within hospitals is also costly because facilities use courier services to order and deliver blood.

More smart fridges to be implemented

Following the success of the pilot, 10 more smart fridges will be rolled out to other hospitals, to be determined according to each hospital’s needs and where it is located.

“We hope to see an improved blood issuing process that will reduce the turnaround times for getting blood to patients. Over time this will prove to be a life-saving intervention, especially in rural areas where blood will be more readily accessible”, says Reddy.

According to SANBS the smart fridge will help:

  • Decrease the risk of transfusing unmatched emergency units to patients and increase patient safety
  • Increase traceability of units
  • Maintain blood products quality and integrity through proper handling and storage
  • Decrease blood wastage
  • Improve management and use of group O blood

SANBS blood stock levels are currently low, with Group O+ blood particularly needed. Want to donate blood? Learn how here.-Health-e News.