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 thecontinuing relevance of bloodin 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 isthe marketin which we operate, the changing realities of healthcare economics, and the supply chain. The third pillar is thebusinessmodel(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 callsgame theory, in which rational strategies and actions trump emotional attachments and decisions poorly grounded in realism.
Sustainability will look different for different blood centers. For some, remaining wholly autonomous may work. For others, remaining an indispensible asset to the community may require them to become part of a larger multi-regional structure. In either case, more than ever, successful community blood centers will need to embrace and be embraced by their communities to ensure their donor bases and hospital connections continue to thrive. This is no less important today – more challenging perhaps, but very important.
At the operational level, today’s financially-vulnerable will need to better understand and reduce their costs. Margins can be resurrected by maximizing use of assets, shedding the unproductive, and sharing overhead costs with like-minded affiliate centers. For those that rely solely on traditional blood products for revenue, improving margins may be elusive if the downward trend in blood use continues. Although the Zeman report suggests red cell use has flattened for the next few years and platelet use should increase slightly, there is ongoing evidence of further blood use declines. How centers are able to reduce their overhead costs per unit distributed will be vital to sustainability.
In blood centers across the country, we are witnessing unprecedented realignments by our America’s Blood Centers colleagues and others. The winning models will achieve sustainability and will continue the important mission of providing safe and effective blood for transfusion.
Chris Staub, MT(ASCP) SBB, Board Member; firstname.lastname@example.org