Mobile platelets donors are saying: More please

December 28, 2010

 Mobile platelets donors are saying:  More please

Now two years into conducting mobile platelet drives, Arizona Region is hearing the sweet phrase from platelet donors:  Please come back more often.

The Region started mobile platelet drives in one community in June 2008.  Since then it has been conducting about two mobile platelet drives per month and has expanded to two communities. The result has been an increase in its donor base, and happier donors who no longer have to drive up to an hour from outlier communities to a donor center in Tucson.     

The Region first considered mobile platelet operations at the urging of a faithful platelet donor in Green Valley, a retirement community about 40 minutes outside of Tucson. 

“It turned out to be an ideal test bed for mobile platelet collections -- the community had some existing platelet donors, it was far enough away from Tucson to recruit new donors, and yet it wasn’t too far away in travel time,” said Apheresis Collections Manager Jean Slama.  “It helped that the existing platelet donors were eager to help get the word out and to work the drive,” she said.    

In October, the Region expanded mobile operations to Oro Valley, another outlier community with similar characteristics.  Apheresis Recruiter Rosa Lee Barbeau described the first Oro Valley drive as a “great success”.   

“The support from the Oro Valley community has been above and beyond what we expected.  The first drive had 20 scheduled donors with 21 people actually donating and 22 products collected.  And the drive had no cancellations or no-shows.  Every donor who we called showed up.  All this at a drive that was the first of its kind in the community,” she said.   

To maximize the opportunity, every mobile platelet operation is expected to be 100 percent pre-booked.  “Because of the nature of our collections, we can’t rely on walk-ins to make up for being under-scheduled,” said Apheresis Recruiter Stacie Baier. 

Getting all the appointments pre-booked was challenging in the early stages of introducing the communities to the concept of mobile platelet drives, according to Baier.  Recruiters have targeted existing and potential donors in the mobile communities, reaching out with telerecruiting, prescreening days, direct mail campaigns, and incentives such as drawings for getaways at local resorts. 

On the days it goes mobile, the apheresis team shuts down platelet collections at the smaller of the Tucson donor centers, as there aren’t enough apheresis machines or staff to run both.  The team takes four machines into the field and collects at inside set-ups only.    

With more than 30 mobile ops under its belt, the apheresis collections team was ready to step it up and paired with whole blood collections to conduct the first-ever, combined platelet and whole blood mobile drive in Arizona.   

The two teams recently shared a site in Green Valley and collected from platelet and whole blood donors during the same hours -- similar to what occurs in a fixed site with separate collection beds, but a shared point of registration and canteen.

When a donor was less-than-ideal for one type of donation, the collections staff sent them to the other team.  Apheresis routed some O donors to whole blood, and whole blood routed an A positive donor to apheresis. 

“Donors tell us they really like the convenience of having mobile platelet collections in their community and not having to drive long distances to a fixed site,” said Barbeau.  “They’re even saying that they want us to come more frequently.”