Tamil Nadu’s largest state-run blood bank attached to the Rajiv Gandhi government general hospital went digital earlier this week. Barcode attached forms and test results have been introduced to help identify donors with infectious diseases. The new procedure would ensure that people with infectious diseases such as HIV, AIDS or hepatitis, including ones that have refused treatment, would be prevented from donating blood at any state-run blood bank. Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society decided to pilot the project following an incident, in which, a pregnant woman in Sattur was tested positive for HIV after she was transfused with infected blood which was cleared as safe by a blood bank. “This bank collects 35,000 units of blood each year. It has three times the capacity of our second largest bank in Madurai. So, we thought this would be the best place to pilot the three-month study,” said state AIDS control society officer Dr Senthil Raj, who is also the blood safety commissioner. The digitization was inspired from a software used by the Christian Medical College, Vellore, which linked donor’s blood bag, test samples and results with a barcode. Officials tweaked the software according to the state’s requirement.
Under the new protocol, volunteers, who offer to donate blood, will have to provide details such as name, date of birth, father’s name, address and contact number. Although blood bank officials do not insist, they encourage donors to give Aadhar card details as well. These details will be stored on a computer and a barcode will be generated. One copy of the barcode would be stuck on the form, another on the blood bag and the third on the sample that would go to the lab for tests. The results uploaded by the bank will be linked to patient’s dashboard on the computer. This way, the blood bank managers will have the donor details and results on the same page. “Even if the donor does not want to take treatment, he or she will not be allowed to donate blood,” he said. The state, however, dropped plans to use fingerprints, iris scan and other bio-identification methods. “We decided to keep it simple. We will use four barcode readers, four systems and a local server instead. The hospital would still be able to use the software even in zones without internet coverage. They can enter details on the computer and upload the details as soon as they are out of the no internet zone,” a senior blood bank official said. – TOI