Health & medicine Science & tech

Q&A: LifeBank on getting blood from A to B in Nigeria

In Nigeria, getting blood to a patient in need is a race against the clock, but the LifeBank app is revolutionising the way that blood is transported. Abi Millar finds out more about how LifeBank is speeding up blood deliveries, mobilising blood donations and saving lives. 

Nigeria has a major blood shortage. With a massive shortfall in donations, and poor delivery logistics, many patients die before they can receive the blood they require. This is one of the factors behind the country’s high maternal mortality rate – a shocking 814 deaths per 100,000 live births.

In 2016, Temie Giwa-Tuboson founded the e-health enterprise LifeBank with a view to connecting blood banks with hospitals and mobilising voluntary blood donations. Since then, the app has moved 15,700 units of blood and saved thousands of lives. It has also received funding to expand its service, moving into other essential medical products such as oxygen. Ifeoluwa Olokode, partnerships and growth lead at LifeBank, explains why this service is so critical and how it works.

Abi Millar: LifeBank has been able to decrease blood delivery time from 24 hours to less than 45 minutes. Why did blood deliveries take so long in the past and what kind of problems did this cause?

Ifeoluwa Olokode: It took a long time in the past because there was a disconnect between supply and demand. Nigeria doesn’t have a centralised blood supply body like the UK does with NHS Blood and Transplant – if you needed blood in the UK, the NHS would find that blood and get it to the hospital, without you needing to think about it. In Nigeria that’s not the case.

The blood supply system here is fragmented – the private hospitals rely on private blood banks, and those private blood banks don’t necessarily speak to one another. So if you were a health worker in a private hospital, and your regular blood bank didn’t have what you needed, you’d have to start searching. Maybe there’s a blood bank three streets over that has it, but you’re not aware of their existence, and you have a patient in dire need who is about to die.

If you go to a public hospital, and you need a rare blood type and the hospital doesn’t have it and none of your family members and friends have the same blood type, you’re in a bind. Your loved ones would then go out searching for blood for you, and since they’re not medical professionals they probably wouldn’t know where to start.

This meant the process of searching for blood would take hours. And once you find it, the hospitals use ambulances to pick it up and there’s always traffic.

LifeBank collates inventory information from all the different blood banks, so now we have this ability to look at what’s available. We connect the hospitals and blood banks using the Google Maps platform, meaning when hospitals request blood we know exactly where to find it. We also use motorbikes to navigate busy streets.

 

Read the rest of this article in the September 2019 edition of Medical Technology

 

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