Improving the convalescent plasma donor experience

Date
November 12, 2021

While the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rollout of a successful vaccine promises a return to something resembling ‘normality’. As scientists worked hard to develop a vaccine, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) began looking at the use of convalescent plasma, blood plasma is taken from those who’ve had COVID-19, to treat patients whose immune system is struggling to fight the virus.

Unsurprisingly, trial demand for this antibody-rich plasma was high. Making sure there’s sufficient supply, with donors happy to donate as often as possible, is essential to the ongoing research into treatments for COVID-19.

We’ve been working with NHSBT to improve the donation experience, building lasting relationships with existing donors and with those who may have been unable to donate previously, to increase the amount of urgently needed successful donations while supporting people to donate multiple times.

Improving the donation experience

Most people who can donate convalescent plasma are happy to do so, often seeing it as contributing to action against the pandemic. But NHSBT wanted to go further. Together, we’ve been focusing on four areas that will improve the experience for plasma donors, while supporting people to understand their options.


Preparation

Many people visit the donation centre without having taken the right precautions to donate. This means they might experience minor side effects during the donation, like feeling lightheaded or nauseous or even being turned away from donating at all.

To better guide people through the experience of donating, it’s essential to present important information in a clear and engaging way. This way, donors know how to prepare and what to expect, resulting not only in a reduction of those who are turned away but also making sure more people feel confident about what will happen during and after their appointment.

Opportunities for digital self-service

Working with NHSBT, we wanted to create a digital experience that meets the donor's expectations of a modern service. Using digital tools in an appropriate and meaningful way, we can enhance the experience and make things like booking, providing health information and giving consent much simpler.

A positive follow up experience

Ideally, donors will continue returning for recurring donations. This will help with the high demand as we continue to support people suffering from COVID-19. To help ensure that donors return, we have an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of donors, increasing the chances of them returning and making the most out of the follow-up experience.

Prototyping with donors

As part of the Alpha phase of the work, we’ve worked with NHSBT to develop a series of prototypes based on our four focus areas that will quickly improve the donor experience by putting them at the centre of the service. We prioritised two of these concepts to prototype and test further, with plans to integrate these into the service.

A seamless registration is an easy and intuitive way for potential donors to check if they meet the criteria and to register their interest for taking part in the essential clinical trial around the convalescent plasma. Donors can answer a couple of questions online, but won’t have to wait for a phone call to know whether they’re eligible or not.

Combining registration and eligibility questions will reduce the number of outgoing calls and collect better data going forward. The tool will feature an updated registration form with the option for donors to call their local centre for more complex questions and answers.

An immersive donor training tool will use technology to offer a more engaging way for new donors to understand what they can expect from the donation process and how they need to prepare.

Featuring an illustrated walkthrough, the digital tool will help donors learn about the process, engaging them in a more interactive way that will help prospective donors retain information better, feel more prepared and confident, ultimately resulting in fewer unsuccessful donations.


Embedding in the service

We’ll continue to gather more data to measure the effectiveness of convalescent plasma in the action against COVID-19. In the meantime, the next steps with NHSBT will be focused on how we can integrate these tested prototypes into the service through donor training and adapting communications.