1.1 Background to the Study
Blood Donor Recruitment (BDR) is the process of drawing blood from a voluntary Blood Donor (BD) for future blood transfusion, Wikipedia (2006). In Uganda, blood collection, safety and management is an activity that is carried out by Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) in partnership with Uganda Blood Transfusion (UBTS). Founded in 1939, URCS is part of the world wide Red Cross Humanitarian Movement whose mission is to mobilize the power of humanity for improving the lives of the vulnerable in Uganda, Muller (2001). URCS fulfills this mission while adhering to the principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence, unity, universality and voluntary service for the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. It operates throughout Uganda with 45 branch offices. Besides providing adequate supply of blood for transfusion, URCS is involved in the first aid services, road safety, tracing, disaster mitigation/preparedness, mobilization for routine immunization, HIV homecare, youth empowerment and Community based HealthCare (CBHC).
URCS had a manual system using paper cards to recruit BDs, collect/keep blood donor records and disseminate results to BDs who are scattered throughout the country. The paper card system (PCS) used to specifically capture personal data and medical history of the BDs. This information would be used in identifying/locating existing BDs, carrying out predonation counseling and taking blood results. Unauthorized persons however, easily accessed the paper system and hence making it impossible to keep secrecy and confidentiality expected of medical records. The security of the medical records was also not inadequate as any person could easily access them. Lukande (2003), states that such a system is time consuming, prone to errors of entry and analysis resulting from the fatigue of the users. The PCS at URCS had lead to accumulation of physical paper cards due to increasing number of blood donors, a situation that frustrated the system users because of the delays and at times failure to access historical records.
The safe blood policy was lacking at URCS because the PCS could not cater for the key attributes of the policy. Gerard (2002), states that the main principles upon which the safe blood policy is based on are the informed consent, confidentiality and secrecy of the BDs. The Ethiopian Red Cross Society publication, Development in the 1990 states that information from blood donors should be completely confidential and if this is not assured, names of the blood donors should not be recorded at all and/or an alternative record identification should be used.
Full implementation of the safe blood policy has called the use of information technology (IT) in providing working solution to the identified challenges. The associated problems with the PCS included delays in accessing historical records, inconsistencies and errors in data entry that stem right from acquisition of data from the blood donors because the exercise is of routine nature and very tedious to the system users. The automation of the system using modern IT has improved the quality of service. Secondly, with the use of IT, now relevant and timely blood donor reports can easily be generated and hence facilitating planning and decision-making.
Scolamiero (2000), recommends blood donor services automated information system as a solution to routinely collected, accurate and readily available information in blood transfusion services. It is also important to note that the impact of information technology on organizations is increasing as new technologies evolve and existing ones expand. According to Clifton (1995), nearly all business executives say that information technology is vital to their business and that they use IT extensively. Certainly business executives main concern is planning, coordination and decision-making, therefore, the role of IT in enhancing management of blood donor records is of major importance.
In all, the computerization of blood donor PCS at URCS came at the ripe time given the background to the situation. This is more so because the demand for safe blood in Uganda has increased due to soaring increase in total population. Therefore, modern means to manage the PCS using IT had to take route.