Post Created in 2014


Déjà Vu All Over Again?

The year 2004 saw the Summer Olympics return to its starting place in Athens, Greece. New England dominated the USA professional sports world with the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl and the Red Sox the World Series. Oh – and red cell demand for independent blood centers was approximately the same as it is today. What happened to the decline in demand!? Read Full Post >


How Do We Honor an Industry Visionary?

Earlier this year, we lost a respected leader in the blood banking community – one who was recognized for his financial acumen, industry vision, and perhaps most importantly, his ability to put aside personal feelings and unite those with opposing viewpoints for the greater good. Jerry Haarmann, who you likely know as the guiding force behind Group Services for America’s Blood Centers (GSABC), was not only a visionary, but also a friend and mentor to many of us. Read Full Post >


Still Time to Let Your Talent Shine

Who said blood bankers’ talents are restricted to the blood center? Since we first introduced “ABC’s Got Talent,” the online virtual talent show fundraiser benefiting the Foundation for America’s Blood Centers (FABC), we have learned that our members have a multitude of rare and exciting talents. I do not want to give away any spoilers, but let me just say, blood bankers sure do keep things interesting. Read Full Post >


It’s the Vaccine Stupid!

The time is approaching for seasonal flu shots. In the US, uptake of flu vaccine on an annual basis remains disappointing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only 42 per-cent of adults and 59 percent of kids were immunized during the last flu season. (I always remember the last time I missed my shot, in 1976 when I was an intern, and got influenza A while as-signed to a Department of Veterans Affairs medical ward. I was afraid I was not going to die.) The best thing I ever did in health care was to push for – and finally see – implementation of mandatory flu immunization in the hospital where I worked for 30 years. This came after it became clear that rational, evidence-based appeals to patient and personal safety were met with unacceptable vaccine uptake. Read Full Post >


Three Days in the Life

It’s the bowling pins on the corner table, each decorated in a different human form, complete with faces and clothes, that grab your attention immediately upon entering the reception area. Looking up, there is less than an inch between each of the photos featuring smiling blood donors lining every wall, heralding the gallons given by community members. Handmade quilts warm the walls of the donor room. The phlebotomist smiles, welcoming a favorite donor and neighbor. Recruiters don funny glasses and a fake mustache to add a personal touch of humor when scheduling the next appointment. Read Full Post >


The Light at the End of the Tunnel May be the Train

AABB’s Standards have required “methods to limit and to detect or inactivate bacteria in all platelet compo-nents” for almost 10 years. In 2012, the Blood Products Advisory Committee (BPAC) voted that “additional measures are needed to decrease the current risk of transfusion of bacterially-contaminated platelet products,” and FDA is writing guidance that will standardize our approaches. ABC centers are asking me about the pend-ing guidance, but guessing the timing or content of agency guidance is not often fruitful; however, the op-tions available aren’t rocket science. Read Full Post >


Tomorrow’s Donor Base — Take Two

Last week in this space, ABC President Dave Green wondered about the makeup of tomorrow’s donor base to meet future transfusion needs. He correctly stated that finding the right answer in the current environment is key. With other seemingly more urgent priorities, he urged us not to lose sight of this issue and to ensure donor relationship management practices are prepared to recruit and retain future donors. Dave, I’m glad you brought it up! Read Full Post >


Tomorrow’s Donor Base

What will our donor base need to look like to meet the transfusion needs of tomorrow? This is perhaps an odd question to ask when the past five years have been characterized by unprecedented declines in blood use and a struggle to take out capacity and reduce costs. Answering this question can also be easily postponed in favor of identifying solutions to near-term problems like chikungunya virus, or resolving long-term issues, such as our inability to convert concurrent plasma for fractionation. But it will require an answer nonetheless, and I believe it will constitute a major challenge for us all. Read Full Post >


With a Little Help From Our Friends

Last week, the blood community and 10 organizations representing patients with rare diseases sent letters to the Food and Drug Administration in support of the blood community’s initiative for regulatory harmonization. Specifically, these organizations are seeking the regulatory flexibility for blood centers to manage apheresis plasma efficiently, as they do recovered plasma from whole blood, so that it can be shipped for manufacture into plasma protein therapies at any time after collection. This regulatory change will advance population health by addressing the unique needs of patients with rare diseases that use life-saving plasma protein therapies. Read Full Post >


Never Fail to Astonish the Customer

“Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer.” For an avid shopper like myself, it is hard for me to find fault with Macy’s, the retail giant who developed this customer service mantra. But as an association aiming to not only provide excellent customer service, but also valuable resources, information, and programs to a diverse membership, we have recently taken to focusing on delivering on our four core values (Innovation, Data Integration, Education and Advocacy), instead of providing the “everything.” Read Full Post >


Ebola R’ Us?

I am fielding questions from my blood bank pals about any impact of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa on transfusion medicine here. I understand Ebola transmission dynamics in the context of the deleterious impact of lack of development (and mistrust of “experts”) in sub-Saharan Africa compared to here. As a result, I pretty much dismissed Ebola as an important threat to what we do in the US – even given the lightning speed of international travel, as discussed in this week’s commentary by Anthony S. Fauci, MD, in The New Eng-land Journal of Medicine. Read Full Post >


Making the Case for Big Data (aka, ABC’s Data Warehouse)

On July 22, America’s Blood Centers Data Warehouse Requirements Advisory Committee (DWRAC) held its first face-to-face member meeting in Chicago. We sought to define how the warehouse can be used to help member organizations identify opportunities for improvement and support national ABC advocacy efforts that represent our views. Read Full Post >


Bylaws Anyone?

Once again, ABC’s board of directors will hold an open bylaws hearing at the upcoming Summer Meeting in Seattle at 7 a.m. on Aug. 7, prior to the scheduled 8 a.m. Members Meeting to vote on several amendments to ABC’s bylaws. This hearing follows a webinar on the ABC bylaws amendments held earlier this week, during which Rick Axelrod, MD, ABC’s vice president and chair of the Bylaws Committee, discussed the amendments proposed by the Bylaws Committee. The hearing is intended to offer ample opportunity for members to raise questions or concerns regarding the changes contemplated. A cursory review of the changes may suggest minimal controversy and maximum “tweaking;” indeed, there are many minor changes included. Yet I strongly encourage your participation in the open hearing and careful consideration before voting. Read Full Post >


Backyard Games and Blood Bankers

You may have heard about the Foundation for America’s Blood Centers’ Cornament and Silent Auction taking place at America’s Blood Centers’ Summer Meeting in Seattle on Aug. 5 and wondered what a bean bag toss game – generally reserved for backyard barbeques – or a silent auction – generally found at black tie events – has to do with the ABC Summer Meeting. The answer is not a whole lot. However, what we hope to accomplish through these events is to provide our member and industry supporters with more opportunities to learn about the programs that are funded through the FABC and why we continuously need your support. Read Full Post >


Backyard Games and Blood Bankers

You may have heard about the Foundation for America’s Blood Centers’ Cornament and Silent Auction taking place at America’s Blood Centers’ Summer Meeting in Seattle on Aug. 5 and wondered what a bean bag toss game – generally reserved for backyard barbeques – or a silent auction – generally found at black tie events – has to do with the ABC Summer Meeting. The answer is not a whole lot. However, what we hope to accomplish through these events is to provide our member and industry supporters with more opportunities to learn about the programs that are funded through the FABC and why we continuously need your support. Read Full Post >


Iron or Rust? A Meta-Analysis on Blood Donor Iron Supplementation

Stephen Vamvakas, MD, PhD, a master of meta-analysis, used to quip that performing meta-analyses means never having to do your own study! Meta-analyses combine similar studies to increase statistical power of conclusions. The Cochrane group recently analyzed blood donor iron stores and replacement. Read Full Post >


The Sting of Transparency

There is an increasing movement toward pricing transparency for hospitals and providers. As previously reported in the ABC Newsletter, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released massive databases with information on Medicare payments to hospitals, physicians, and other non-hospital providers. In addition, three large insurers have announced that they are establishing a similar online database of paid claims. Also evolving very rapidly are state-level All-Payer Claims Databases (APCDs). More than 30 states have established or shown a strong interest in APCDs, large databases that systematically collect medical claims, pharmacy claims, and provider files from private and governmental payers to obtain multipayer data that allow stakeholders to understand the cost, quality, and utilization of health care in their region. Read Full Post >


Meet Us In Seattle

What’s not to love about the emerald city? The modern skyline, the futuristic space needle, the coffee culture, the lush green surroundings, and the Cascades – add to that the ABC Summer Meeting – and you’ve got a perfect summer getaway! We are heading to Seattle and we couldn’t be happier with the program. Puget Sound Blood Center will be hosting the 52nd Summer Meeting and we hope that you will meet us there. Read Full Post >


State Fairs and Blood Bank Associations

The York County Fair happens once every year and when I was growing up back in south central Penn-sylvania, it was exciting for me to attend the fair. I got much the same feeling last month when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a couple of state blood bank annual meetings for the first time in a few years. Read Full Post >


On “Big Data”

I have been extremely fortunate over the years to have known some exceptional thinkers, strategists, and visionaries. Their counsel has been instrumental in whatever success I have enjoyed, and in the case of those mentors outside blood banking, their insights into the challenges and opportunities that they have faced in their respective industries and which may impact our world, have been quite instructive. Such is the case with a board member and mentor from my former employer, who happens to also own a bank (I’ll call him Joe). Read Full Post >


The Buck Stops ... Where?

America’s Blood Centers’ board of directors owns responsibility for the performance of ABC. As is the case with any organization, the buck stops with the directors and officers. Granted, boards hire, evaluate, compensate, and retain a CEO with the expectation that this individual will oversee the operations of the enterprise. But in doing so, boards must step up and not blindly follow the lead of the CEO. Rather, they must spend considerable time on strategic issues such as oversight, planning, enviro-scanning and assessing organizational risk. ABC’s board is doing just that. Read Full Post >


The Catchphrase Patient Blood Management has Been Hijacked!

Appropriate transfusion is good for patients. Blood transfusion saves lives every day. However, benefits of transfusion are not included among the data collected by patient blood management (PBM) and hemovigilance programs. We need to develop indicators and count successes of transfusions therapy. Read Full Post >


Together is Always Better

A lot has changed in the past three months. While my days of caring for a newborn have been filled with diapers, feedings, and copious amounts of coffee, my colleagues at America’s Blood Centers have been working diligently to continue to strategize and implement ways to better align ourselves with the needs of ABC member organizations. I was happy to hear that part of this strategy is to officially merge my work with the Foundation for America’s Blood Centers (FABC) with the work of the Member and External Relations department at ABC. Read Full Post >


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Your One Source for Blood Banking Staff Development and Learning

It has never been easier to access information – with the click of a mouse and a few key strokes, you can find just about anything on the Internet. For trade associations and customer service organizations alike, it has become clear that an organization’s website is crucial to its success. An entity’s website serves as its “public face” and is generally the first place customers look to answer questions or find resources. Read Full Post >


Collective Responsibility is Red, White, and Blue

Collective responsibility is an elementary principle of organizational life. ABC members have the opportunity to vote on two bylaw changes via webinar on May 14, 2014 at 2 p.m. EDT or by submitting a proxy ballot by COB May 12. Read Full Post >


Don’t Say I Haven’t Said Anything Nice About FDA Recently

The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and Center for De-vices and Radiological Health has issued a draft guidance (available at http://1.usa.gov/1nEBjUq). It describes the statutory and regulatory foundations permitting the agency to approve “Premarket Approval” (PMA) applications for medical devices even when all of the data that FDA requires are not available at the time of approval. The lynchpin is that “FDA believes that applying postmarket controls in order to reduce premarket data collection, when appropriate, improves patient access to safe and effective medical devices that are important to the public health.” The Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act requires that FDA use the “least burdensome” data requests to establish the effectiveness of a device and that “probable benefits” be weighed against “probable risks.” Read Full Post >


On Advocacy

This week’s ABC Newsletter details our active advocacy agenda developed by the Government Affairs Committee, based on your input. We have an ambitious agenda designed to tackle some long-standing issues, as well as emerging opportunities. Our overall intent is to shape the legislative and regulatory environment in a way that enhances our members’ ability to succeed in a challenging and fluid era. The ABC staff is capable and prepared to drive this agenda, but of critical importance is the active engagement by all of us in educating our national and local elected and administrative officials about the importance of these initiatives. Read Full Post >


Eventually We’ll Get It Right

There’s nothing like a reunion for making you feel old – and different, and special, perhaps. Last week, I went to the 25th reunion of my medical school class (Baylor College of Medicine, 1989). The events seemed to represent what’s happening in health care today, specifically some of the issues facing America’s Blood Centers. Read Full Post >


Not Much Happening in the Real World, So I’ll Update You On Mine

Chikungunya virus - named from a word in the Kimakonde language meaning "to become contorted," describing the stooped over appearance of its victims crippled with joint pain. This acute mosquito-borne infection of African origin has caused titanic epidemics in the Indian Ocean and South Asia during the past decade. Since early December 2013, more than 20,000 cases have been detected in the Caribbean and northern South America. There is no reason not to expect it to land on the US mainland, where competent vectors are common. The AABB Transfusion Transmitted Disease (TTD) Committee's Emerging Infections subgroup and FDA's Division of Emerging and Transfusion Transmitted Diseases have all been following the Caribbean outbreak closely. Read Full Post >


Information + Engagement = Good Decisions

Last week, America’s Blood Centers’ members came together in Palm Springs, Calif., for the 52nd Annual Meeting and 4th annual Links for Life Golf Tournament benefiting the Foundation for America’s Blood Centers. The work that went into organizing this particular meeting was unprecedented, not only for co-hosts Blood Systems, Inc. and LifeStream, as well as the ABC Meetings Committee, but also for the ABC staff. Read Full Post >


On Collegiality

Benjamin Graham was a noted Columbia Business School professor, author of “The Intelligent Investor,” and developer of the approach called Value Investing, on which Warren Buffett based his investment strategy. Ben Graham offered the following regarding cooperation and competition: “Competition creates better products, alliances create better companies.” This simple but compelling sentiment underlies in part the perspective on which the “Cooperate-to-Compete” theme, which has been incorporated into ABC’s meetings, is based. I would argue, however, there is an even more basic component to our long term success – maintaining our sense of collegiality. Read Full Post >


File Under the Heading of “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

related acute lung injury (TRALI) mitigation. They require whole blood and plasma for transfusion to come from donors who are unlikely to be alloimmunized to human leukocyte antigens (HLA), which have been associated with the risk of this transfusion reaction. It is a good bet that in the future, these expectations will expand to include apheresis platelet donors. A common approach to meet the Standards is screening donors at risk for alloimmunization for HLA antibodies using any of a variety of test kits. During recent Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) inspections of blood establishments, certain laboratories have been cited when testing for HLA antibodies because they are not CLIA-certified in the specialty of histocompatibility. At AABB’s request, CLIA has reviewed the issue and is maintaining this interpretation; so it is reasonable to expect more such citations. Read Full Post >


Shifting Organizational Culture Through Project Management

It has been slightly more than four years since I joined you in the blood industry, and what a four years it has been. While my tenure in our industry is short, I do understand rapid change and the challenges it creates for organizations and leaders, regardless of the industry. Evidence indicates that the changes we are experiencing in blood banking and healthcare at-large are unprecedented, creating tremendous challenges in our centers and in ourselves as leaders. The reality is clear – it’s not business as usual anymore. Read Full Post >


The Clock is Ticking

Whether talking about America’s Blood Centers or our member centers, there are two rudimentary contribu-tors to the financial equation. Decreasing costs and increasing revenue are essential to the bottom line. Sometimes trimming costs can be a delicate proposition. The need to meet or exceed member needs now and in the future must be balanced with the handling of short-term priorities. Often alternative sources of revenue are difficult to find. I would like to share with you today some of ABC’s activities to reduce costs and increase revenue as we strive to assure financial accountability to our members. Read Full Post >


Reconnecting Value to Satisfaction

Last week, the ABC board of directors, executive staff, and a handful of ABC committee chairs participated in the strategic “thinking” retreat in Dallas to develop the next strategic plan for your association. You will have an opportunity to review the draft plan in the coming weeks, prior to the Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, Calif., but before we get to that, I wanted to reflect on a point that was discussed at the retreat. Read Full Post >


We Need Your Voice

Blood Bank of Alaska (BBA) has many unique challenges due to our geographic location in relation to the lower 48, and the size of our service area. Alaska itself represents about 20 percent of the US landmass. No offense to Texas, but Alaska could easily fit two states the size of Texas within its borders with room to spare. Read Full Post >


Framing the Challenge: Decline or Shift

Not surprisingly the pace of change in how we interact with and support our hospitals continues at a brisk pace: hospitals joining systems, systems merging with systems, and mega-systems forming purchasing umbrellas. Our members are demonstrating creativity in expanding relationships with their customers, partnering to deliver unprecedented value, and forging new networks to extend their reach according to the evolving footprint of their customers. Amid these dramatic responses to an increasingly complex service environment, what responsibility do we have in making our donors aware of these changes? Read Full Post >


A Personal Reflection

It must be unusual for a single generation of docs to witness the glorious progress we have seen in the ability to control conditions that helped define a clinical epoch. Last week, the ABC Newsletter reported on two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine that described a treatment administered once daily for HCV infection with very well tolerated, all-oral drug regimens; these stand to replace some dauntingly toxic, injectable standard cocktails. They afforded apparent cure of infection in more than 90 percent of enrolled patients. The responses were independent of virus strain and other predictors of a poor response. Many giddily predict that we are seeing the coffin lid nailed down on a bug that is a leading cause for liver transplantation in this country and of end stage liver disease worldwide. Similarly, stepwise improvements since the mid-1990s in the ability to control – if not cure – HIV infection, have turned an infection associated with millions of grizzly deaths into a chronic process that under the right circumstances is held at bay with a single daily pill. Read Full Post >


Get Out of the Cold and Onto the Course

As much of the country continues to endure what seems like one polar vortex after another, many of us are holding out hope that Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow. However, instead of relying on a rodent to bring sunny weather, you should set your sights on the ABC Annual Meeting and Links for Life Golf Tournament in sunny Palm Springs, Calif. this March! Not only will you get out of the cold, but you will have the opportunity to support the Foundation for America’s Blood Centers (FABC) and have a great time golfing at one of the top golf destinations in the world. Read Full Post >


The Sustainability of Community Blood Centers

Sustainability has been generating much discussion within blood banking, and I believe there are three pillars of sustainability for community blood centers. The first is the continuing relevance of blood in medicine and surgery. A 2013 report on the blood banking industry by John Zeman and other experts suggest the demand for blood products and services will continue for the foreseeable future. The second pillar of sustainability is the market in which we operate, the changing realities of healthcare economics, and the supply chain. The third pillar is the business model(s) we select, or the “winning model(s).” There will likely continue to be winners and losers. I suspect not all winners will be large organizational entities, nor will all losers be small. Winning delivery models will be those blood centers that best execute what behavioral economics calls game theory, in which rational strategies and actions trump emotional attachments and decisions poorly grounded in realism. Read Full Post >


Be It Resolved

Happy new year! I hope your holiday season was filled with good health and much happiness. As so many do, I have put together a brief list of new year’s resolutions for 2014. Here are my top three. Read Full Post >