The Data Conundrum
Chair of the Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, Dr. Jay Menitove’s editorial in this month’s Transfusion Supplement is a must read for all of us in the blood community. While highlighting blood collection and utilization trend lines that are disconcerting, he more importantly points to the 2 year delay in having these data as our greatest weakness. Dr. Menitove notes that while the “NBCUS (National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey) reports are a great start, we need timely data more than ever.”
In today’s world of “big data” and analytics, which would seem a small challenge, but a cascading confluence of complicating factors have made overcoming it elusive.
The movement from at-need surveys to routine longitudinal data collection in ABC’s membership began almost simultaneously in 2007 with the Automated Inventory Management I & II (AIM) projects and the ABC Data Warehouse. Launched on small budgets, these projects were followed by the recession of 2008 to 2009, healthcare reform in 2010, and the earnest pursuit of patient blood management that are driving transfusion rates, blood utilization, and blood pricing down simultaneously. Reduced blood center margins have led to blood center consolidation that only increases concerns that some blood centers have had about data sharing. This serial progression over ten years has thwarted good efforts, not yet realized.
Finding the resources for the fundamental infrastructure to collect, compile, and analyze the data remains an issue. At the same time, the need for data to model and address the availability and sustainability of the blood supply, risk-based decision making framework, and policy making decisions at the current speed of change has never been greater—and requires near real time data, not surveys. This conundrum is solvable.
I believe there is greater appreciation and growing alignment within the broad blood community on this issue, but if data is essential to our mission, we must work together to identify the funding to redouble the effort in the near term to establish a more enduring and robust long term solution, now.
Martin Grable; Board President