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Download site for the new Bloodworks app. (Bloodworks Northwest Image)

How do you encourage new generations to adopt a habit of their older predecessors? A major regional blood center is betting, in part, on a mobile app.

Bloodworks Northwest on Monday launched its app aimed at motivating first-time donors to give blood, following what it called a successful test in Eugene, Ore. The Seattle-based nonprofit, which serves more than 90 hospitals in the Pacific Northwest, released the Bloodworks app for Android and Apple iOS devices to make it easier for younger donors to navigate the blood donation process, from finding a site to understanding the benefits.

Scheduling a donation in the app.

The app’s launch follows a recent Harris Poll commissioned by Bloodworks Northwest. The poll found 18 percent of Millennials who have never given blood said it was because they didn’t know how or where to give blood, and that 63 percent didn’t know it takes about an hour to donate a pint of blood. Those results appear in contrast to overall public expectations: the poll also found 34 percent of all U.S. adults mistakenly believe young adults are more likely to give blood than older adults.

At the same time, Bloodworks Northwest and other blood centers across the nation are seeing a decline in blood donations. Part of the reason is older, reliable generations are “aging out” as viable donors.

The Bloodworks app, which was nearly a year in development, walks donors of any age through the blood donation process: finding a donation site, booking an appointment, tracking donation history, and even inviting others to donate and creating social groups of active donors.

“Early signs from our test launch in Eugene shows we’re on the right track,” Mark Gilman, managing partner of app developer Degree 37, told GeekWire. “The number of downloads there exceeded our expectations.” He added that at the University of Oregon, a Bloodworks rep said they had the largest group ever of student blood donors on campus after the app became available.

Gilman has high aims for both the feedback and social aspects of the app. “Each blood donation saves as many as three lives and those numbers will be there on the app for them to see every time they sign in,” he said. “When a Millennial donor sees his or her friends joining in, it has a snowball effect. It builds momentum. They feel like they’re part of a movement.”

Overall, Bloodworks Northwest plans to track how the app increases the frequency of donation. “We’re also very excited about our ability to reconnect with our lapsed donors,” Gilman said. “We believe the new platform and the ability to communicate with them over their preferred media will bring back and help us keep those donors active.”

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