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SANBS to digitise 30m blood donation records annually

Processing 800,000 blood donations a year creates quite a paper trail, and considering that lives are literally at stake, the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) is required to follow a rigorous process as documents flow through each phase - from donor, all the way to the patient who benefits from a blood donation.
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Massive financial drain

Hazel Bell, senior manager of quality systems at SANBS, notes that: “Up to 30m individual paper records are generated each year, creating enormous complexities for SANBS staff. Considering the total costs of paper – including purchasing, printing, processing, ink costs, transporting, storing and retrieving – this causes a massive financial drain on the organisation.”

Errors in the way some forms were completed hindered SANBS’ ability to collect certain invoices, causing revenue leakage. There was also no simple way to analyse the data on record: surveys were a very time-consuming and laborious process. And then, to compound these issues, a fire in SANBS’ Pinetown warehouse resulted in the destruction of many records.

Project Impilo

In this spirit of going green, and with the goal of enhancing efficiencies, SANBS decided to implement an enterprise information management (EIM) solution that would consist of digitising its operations, migrating away from paper-based processes, and enhancing information management. This project became affectionately known as Project Impilo – a Zulu term meaning health.

The second phase, she adds, is now in full swing: transforming millions of other records relating to blood donation, testing and quality control into digital assets.

Complying to PoPI

As the project gains momentum, the initial pilot group of 120 users should be extended to all 2,500 SANBS staff nationwide. “Paper consumption and costs will decrease dramatically, creating not only a positive environmental impact, but also improving the working conditions for SANBS staff,” notes Bell. “In addition, the system will assist SANBS in its strategic focus on compliance to the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act.”

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) provides patients with a supply of safe, high-quality blood products and medical services related to blood transfusion. Operating across nine South African provinces, SANBS collects blood donations from millions of volunteer donors, also providing support to other countries within the SADC region.


Bell explains that, as a non-profit organisation committed to making a positive impact on the lives of all South Africans, the principles of sustainability and environmental awareness have been firmly entrenched by the SANBS board. These principles extend to every area, including the likes of medical waste.
As the organisation looks to move towards a fully-digital environment, it expects the user experience for donors and beneficiaries to improve – spurring greater levels of donation, and greater impact in fulfilling its mandate of saving the lives of South Africans in need of transfusions.

“Ultimately, the cost savings will mean that budgets are funnelled into more valuable areas like research, performing big data analysis on our records, and increasing the size of our donor base,” concludes Bell.
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Read more: Digitisation, records