Keeping the Blood Flowing

Keeping the Blood Flowing

Dr Michael Chau
Opening Ceremony of the Yuen Long Donor Centre in 2011 officiated by the then Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow (front row, middle)

The health and medical needs of an ageing population mean Hong Kong has to store up increasing amounts of fresh blood products. This year alone, the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service (BTS) needs 3.4 per cent more units of whole blood, plasma and platelets than it collected last year, when demand increased by 4.4 per cent.

Added to that growing demand is the fact that donations from first-time donors have fallen, in part because the revised school curriculum means Form 7 students are now spread out in universities and the workplace, rather than easily targeted in a school. So where can additional donors be found?

To help find an answer, the BTS has been turning to Dr Michael Chau, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Business and Economics, whose research focuses on data mining and analysis.

Dr Chau has applied his know-how to help the BTS target its services to the right people and in the right format, by looking for patterns and trends that would identify where and how the BTS could boost donations.

"We were particularly interested in seeing where people had to travel the furthest to the nearest blood collection centre to make a donation. Our results showed this was in Yuen Long so we recommended they establish a centre there," he said.

The BTS took up the advice and opened a donation centre in Yuen Long in August 2011.

"The outcome was overwhelming," Dr Chau said. "The centre attracted more than 400 donations per week and most of these donors came from the district, just as we had predicted in our analysis model.

"This project has been highly beneficial in helping the BTS fulfil its mission of ensuring a steady supply of blood in Hong Kong, which is vital to public health."

Dr Chau's work is also contributing to wider knowledge about the workings of blood donation centres. He has produced several papers on the subject in academic journals and at an international conference, and this year he undertook a funded project for the Hong Kong Hospital Authority to do a multidimensional analysis of blood donation data. Hopefully the results will yield other useful information to keep the blood flowing in Hong Kong's hospitals and medical centres.

Dr Michael C L Chau received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2013 of the Faculty of Business and Economics for the 'Data Analytics for Blood Donation and Transfusion in Hong Kong' project.