United Blood Services donors in El Paso and Las Cruces now have a faster, more convenient way to complete their blood donor questionnaire.
For the past three months, UBS centers in Texas and Reno, Nev., have been allowing donors to complete their health history questionnaire online, reducing -- and in most cases, eliminating -- the length of in-person interviews.
"Before, our donors would get here and they would have to wait to be interviewed by one of our technicians," said Martin Gomez, a donor recruitment manager for UBS. "Now, instead of answering all the questions in person, they can answer them online."
Donors can complete their blood donor interview online wherever they like, as long as they answer the questionnaire
the same day as their blood donation.
"This is a program that is being piloted in Texas and Reno before we launch it to all United Blood Services in the country," Gomez said. "We need to evaluate results to see how quick it is, to see if there are any problems with it, fix them and then endorse it to United Blood Services."
Donors can visit the United Blood Services website at UnitedBloodServices.org and click the "Health History Questionnaire" button, complete the interview and print out a bar code "Fast Track Donation Ticket" that they must bring with them when they donate.
UBS will have computers available on site for its mobile high school and community blood drives as well.
"There are about 40 easy, basic
questions that take about five minutes to answer," Gomez said. "Kids at the high schools get through it really fast, but some older people could take a little longer."
Donors still have the option to have a UBS staff member ask the health history questions. All donors have to do is request this option when they arrive to donate.
"If you ask the same questions to 150 people, you can see how much time we are actually reducing; it's quite a bit of time," Gomez said. "It's better for us, the donor and the patient because we can see more people with the same amount of staff."
The online interview is another step in a series of changes United Blood Services has made in the past few years to make the most of volunteer blood
donors' time. The latest change was to check vital signs and hemoglobin at the beginning of the interview. These health checks can sometimes defer a donor, and that's frustrating if the donor has already sat through the lengthy questionnaire.
"If everything works right, we should be saving about 10 minutes a person, which means we can process more donors," Gomez said. "We're getting into the last phase of the pilot program and we've been meeting weekly, letting our corporate office know how this is working. Overall, it's working good."
Manny Torres, a senior at Canutillo High School, said the online questionnaire is more efficient.
"The process was way faster than the old way," Torres said at last week's blood drive at the school. "It makes the interview process a lot better and easier. It's better than having someone sitting there asking you questions."
Torres said donating blood is a family tradition.
"I donate every time they come to the school," he said. "My family donates all the time. We want to do anything we can to help save a life."
Robyn Weiss, the blood drive coordinator and health science tech at Canutillo High School, said the school has three blood drives a year, in September, January and May.
"It's one of the things our students look forward to," Weiss said. "If we can get these kids used to donating three times a year as juniors and seniors, then they are more likely to do it when they get out of high school and that's what I want. I want them to make a lifelong habit out of donating."
Weiss said the students were a little nervous about using the online blood donor questionnaire.
"It's going to take time for the kids to get used to it," she said. "They might be a little bit nervous about messing up and not being able to donate, but once they do, they're going to love it because it does give them something to do while they are waiting."
Once the questionnaire is complete and the vitals have been taken, making sure their blood pressure is normal and their pulse is fine, the actual donation process -- needle in, needle out -- takes about 25 minutes.
"During the last week of December and the first two weeks of January, we always experience a shortage because of the holidays and the first two weeks of January is difficult to collect blood," Gomez said.
Blood is in even greater demand now because of that nasty flu bug going around.
"We have a tremendous shortage of type O blood, so we are asking people who are healthy to come out to one of our three centers or one of our blood drives and donate blood," Gomez said. "Sixty percent of people in El Paso are type O. It's the most common blood type among Hispanics, so that's the one we need the most to make sure we have an adequate supply for our patients."
Victor R. Martinez may be reached at vmartinez@elpaso times.com; 546-6128. Follow him on Twitter @vrmart
Donate blood -- What: United Blood Service is seeking donors, particularly those with type O blood. -- Where: In El Paso, 424 S. Mesa Hills, 544-5422; 1338 N. Zaragoza, 849-7390; and 4758 Loma Del Sur, Suite B, 822-8438 (only open on Saturday). In Las Cruces, 1200 Commerce in Las Cruces, 575-527-1322. -- Information: UnitedBloodServices.org.
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