LAS VEGAS - A critical blood shortage has forced elective surgeries to be canceled in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, according to the Red Cross. The organization says it needs 80,000 units of blood on hand daily, but has only about 36,000 currently. That's spurred the creation of the Red Cross Blood Donor app (for iOS and Android).
With badge achievements, real-world rewards and competitive teams, the new free Blood Donor app provides incentives for people to give. Plus, it offers the added benefit of making it easy to schedule blood-giving appointments.
During my time with the app, which launched here at CTIA, I was impressed with the myriad of achievements I could unlock, including Hatrick for three sessions, Summertime Hope for donating during the summer months and even #BloodSelfie. The latter is unlocked when you take and share a selfie of you giving blood, using the app's selfie-taking tool.
Thanks to an array of partnerships with regional and national merchants, the app also offers several rewards such as $15 off ProFlowers and a free Blood Type ID Keychain from My Identity Doctor. At launch, just 12 rewards are available, but the organization is talking to more merchants to join the program. You earn the rewards by showing up at a blood drive and giving blood, then selecting the reward you want. The reward will be available 2 to 3 days after.
With the rewards, the Red Cross stressed that each merchant's offering is unique and not offered through any other service (such as Groupon or discount sites).
You can also create or join one of the teams of people tracking the number of lives they've saved (each donation saves three lives, says the Red Cross) for a little friendly, if bloody, competition. I searched for New York within the app and was pleasantly surprised to find the New York Times, New York Mets and New York Knicks already had teams. I joined the Times' team and was shown my team rank out of the 1,385 groups as of the time I wrote this.
I also really liked the Bloody Journey feature, which follows your donated blood as it moves from the donation drive to the blood bank, and eventually to its new human host. It's a great way of knowing where your blood goes after you donate it.
In addition to all the bells and whistles, Blood Donor also performs its basic function well. When I tried to schedule an appointment, the app walked me through looking for a nearby drive (I could search for a specific location if I wanted) and selecting a window of time I was available. It then presented a list of available appointments, and after I signed up for a slot, it added an entry to my phone's calendar.
After you make an appointment, you can also invite friends to join you or share to Facebook and Twitter to show off how kind you are being. Blood Donor also lets you see your donation history and dispenses information about blood types and preparing for an upcoming donation.
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Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.