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!?
Although coming up with timely national blood product usage information is a dicey proposition, surrogate measures suggest the red cell usage we see today is very close to what we saw in 2004. The transfusion rate is certainly down considerably from a decade ago, but the transfusion volume and supporting red cell production are nearly the same. I was surprised by this realization and only stumbled upon it when I was evaluating operating budgets over the past 10 years. But once this was clear, I was pleased at the shift in perspective caused by this realization. In addition to searching for new solutions I added the fundamental question – “What’s changed since then?”
We added transfusion related acute lung injury (TRALI) mitigation strategies, Chagas disease screening for first-time donors, and hepatitis B virus nucleic acid testing – adding a cumulative safety and cost impact. But, we also saw significant supply savings over the past few years to help offset these expenses. Likely the most notable change was the industry-wide increase in production to support a steady annual increase through 2008; we all know too well the subsequent plateau in demand and reduction in transfusion rates – so perhaps we have lessons learned from scaling back operations that could prove useful in the future. Changing my perspective did not necessarily solve the budget problem, but it did produce a more fruitful set of options from which to choose.
However, reflecting on changes over the past 10 years is just one approach to dealing with our challenges. Another I recommend is an in-depth review of supply chain optimization strategies in blood banking. ABC is conducting a Supply Chain Optimization Workshop from Dec. 9 to 10 in Austin, Texas. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from experts in this field, as well as blood bankers who have successfully reengineered their programs by employing supply chain techniques. Although this type of session cannot make us experts in supply chain management principles, it most certainly gives us a fresh look at the challenges we face and connect us with those who can help us make a difference. I look forward to seeing you there!
Dave Green, Board President; DGreen@bloodsystems.org