Post Created in 2013


What’s Your Five Year Plan?

Much has been written about the uncertain times in blood banking, mainly due to the cost-cutting pressures within healthcare and the decrease in blood use. But something else is happening that has caught the attention of America’s Blood Centers’ executives – “en masse” retirements. In the last three months, three ABC member CEOs have turned over. The median age of an ABC member CEO or representative is 61, roughly five years away from retirement. We are facing a wave of baby boomers leaving the industry, which has implications not only to the communities they serve, but also to our association. Read Full Post >


‘Tis the Season

Every December, there is a flurry of association activity in Washington, D.C. ‘Tis the season for professional and trade organizations to finalize their federal advocacy agendas for the upcoming year. Read Full Post >


Disrupt Yourself

From Puget Sound, Wash. to Miami Beach, Fla., change is pervasive across the blood world. Community blood centers that were once unshakably loyal are seeking new leadership and value from America’s Blood Centers to guide them through a business climate that is almost unrecognizable from just a few years ago. This competitive and economically challenging environment has transformed member expectations, and the time is now to lead our organization into this new era, which is all about value to our blood center members. Read Full Post >


What’s Our Community ROA?

A cursory review of recent blood banking operations literature points to a rather dramatic shift (or de-cline, if you prefer) in core blood product demand and many speculate we will see more of the same over the next few years. If this is true (and I happen to believe it is), then we have an obvious problem of over-capacity. In the for-profit world, such a dilemma typically triggers industry leaders to investigate two questions: What does the demand characteristic of the future look like (in other words, how much change, how fast, and what impact will it have on our breakeven point?) – and – What are the barriers to exit should we need to move resources to another purpose? I will leave the challenges that blood banking faces with using dated national market information for a subsequent article. But I want to tackle the second question by asking how non-profits in general, and blood banks in particular, evaluate the exit question. Read Full Post >


Thicker than Water

This month I accepted the position as CEO of America’s Blood Centers. It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to work with this wonderful organization. I believe ABC’s future is full of promise and I am excited about what lies ahead. I am also aware that most of you do not know me, so I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself a bit. Read Full Post >


Charity Begins at Home

“Charity begins at home, but should not end there.” This quote has a number of variations and has been attributed to many authors over the years, but in the end, it always drives home the same point: to help the world, you must first start with the members of your immediate family and community. Then, slowly but surely, the ripple effect takes place. Read Full Post >


The Government May be Shutdown, but we Still Need You

As the partial government shutdown closes in on the end of its second week, and the world nervously turns its attention to the possible default of the US Treasury, there is a rather somber attitude in Washington D.C. and all over the country. Many are experiencing the “trickle-down effect” of the shutdown. It really hit me when I visited the Starbucks by the ABC office at 8 a.m. the other day. Normally, this particular branch tends to have a line out the door of caffeine junkies getting their fix, especially during the morning, but I was the only customer in the whole café that morning. The baristas confirmed it has been like that all week. Read Full Post >


Embracing Our New Leadership

On Sept. 20, America’s Blood Centers announced the hiring of Christine Zambricki, DNAP, CRNA, as ABC’s new CEO. I hope readers were as impressed as ABC staff was with her experience, skills, and qualifications. With her healthcare advocacy background, we couldn’t have asked for a better candidate to lead ABC at this very moment. Getting to Dr. Zambricki was not an easy process by any means. For starters, the ABC CEO Search Committee had to begin the search much earlier than anticipated. Thankfully, they were able to quickly develop search criteria that clearly defined the characteristics and skills of the new ABC leader. We were also fortunate to count on the assistance of a top talent search firm. The search firm initially reviewed 151 applicants, contacted 77, considered 11, interviewed eight and recommended four candidates to the committee. The Search Committee further narrowed the search to three candidates who appeared to meet the job description and desired CEO profile. After a round of interviews with committee members, Dr. Zambricki emerged as the top candidate and enthusiastically accepted the offer. Read Full Post >


Value-Added Services

I dislike the term “value-added.” I realize why the term exists and the importance of differentiating between delivering blood products and providing a comprehensive service approach to support hospitals. I just think the phrase somehow minimizes the very essence of the vital services that are often called “value-added." Read Full Post >


Leveraging Talents for Success

As this Newsletter goes to print, America’s Blood Centers’ 12th bi-annual Financial Management Work-shop will coming to a close. It is amazing how far this workshop has progressed since 1990 when a group of accountants, including me, decided that blood center financial professionals needed an opportunity to come together and share ideas. At this year’s workshop, titled “Financial Management: Thinking Strategically in an Uncertain World,” we discussed the “State of the Industry” from the blood center executive, supplier, and hospital viewpoints. Attendees heard presentations addressing whether our business models are sustainable, shared success stories on how to enhance the bottom-line, and much more. Read Full Post >


Jason and the Algorithms

I distinctly recall my aunt and uncle taking my cousins and me to a drive-in theater back in 1963 to see that year’s big special-effects film, “Jason and the Argonauts.” Based on Greek mythology, the hero Jason stood before Zeus and Hera in the heavenly Olympus and received direct guidance about how he might find and steal the Golden Fleece, which reminds me now of how I attend ABC meetings to derive enlightenment from conversations with my mythic colleagues at ABC. The gods offered Jason some support, but ultimately, he had to overcome many obstacles himself. There were two images from that film that remain vivid in my mind to this day. The first was when Jason battled the Hydra. Jason had to kill the many-headed monster in order to make off with the Golden Fleece. The other was the frightening moment when the skeletons broke out from the rocky earth with their swords and began battling Jason and his men. Read Full Post >


“Star Wars” or Looking for Trouble?

I always told my kids to be careful turning over rocks – there might be a scorpion there to sting them. The warning came from my clinical experience, watching colleagues test patients for infections that you could tell they did not have after talking to the patient, and coming up with false positive tests to explain away. The pathologists among us (at least those beyond a certain age) will remember “febrile agglutinins” in this context. Read Full Post >


Change for the Better

There has been a whole lot of talk about change lately – nationally, locally, and even personally, change has been a common subject of conversation. Our national healthcare system is embarking on some of the most drastic changes in history. Lately, my Facebook page has been filled with endless posts of what may be considered the quintessential symbol of change in the lives of parents and children – the first day of school picture. And of course, as everyone in blood banking knows, our industry is changing at a fast and furious pace, with many discussions among blood bank leaders focusing on what we can do to keep up. Read Full Post >


Why do we do What we do?

Yes, I know the primary reason that we “do what we do” is to help connect donors and patients by providing life-saving blood products. In this case, I’m asking a less meaningful, but in some ways perhaps more provocative, question – How are blood centers organized and will that organizational structure allow us to continue to “do what we do” best? I’ve been in blood banking for nearly a quarter century, yet I did not really seriously wrestle with this question until recently. Perhaps my reticence stemmed from needing a certain level of predictability in how I saw our role in the community, or that previous challenges did not require us to tackle these types of questions. However, I believe those answers are critical now. Read Full Post >


America's Blood Centers: Power in Numbers

You may already be aware, either by attending or hearing about it, that America’s Blood Centers just completed a very successful Summer Meeting (formerly the Interim Meeting). The meeting provided a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends while also making new ones. The BloodCenter of Wisconsin was the perfect host, even providing fantastic weather. Read Full Post >


Three Kinds of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Two recent reports appeared separately in the ABC Newsletter. The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Statistical Brief, #149 from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality lists transfusion as the most frequent procedure performed in US hospitals during 2010, while the 2011 National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey (NBCUS) shows significant decreases in blood transfusions since 2008. I have received inquiries about the apparent discrepancy between the reports, but there is probably no conflict – they count apples and oranges. Read Full Post >


To Shape the Future, Get Involved

Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services published the 2011 National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey (NBCUS) Report (see page 1). The results will come as no surprise to blood bankers: blood collections are down, driven by the decrease in demand and perhaps the increase in patient blood management strategies. Overall, there has been about an 8 percent decrease in whole blood and red blood cell (RBC) transfusions – echoing what ABC members have reported and similar to rates reported by European Blood Alliance members. Read Full Post >


What on Earth do Railroads Have to do with Blood Banking?

I admit I was a bit skeptical when I learned that ABC’s Meetings Committee had arranged to have Mark Fagan from Harvard deliver a two hour presentation on how the railroad industry offers us insights into our unprecedented environmental challenges. After all, what do railroads have in common with blood banks? Following the truly dynamic and interactive session by Mr. Fagan at last March’s ABC Annual Meeting, I (and I believe other attendees) awakened to the incredible wealth of knowledge other indus-tries could offer in helping us thrive in difficult times. Based on the immensely positive feedback on this session, the Meetings Committee planned for the August ABC Interim Meeting in Milwaukee to build on the discussion started in March by welcoming Mr. Fagan back to help guide us through a discussion on how ABC should deliver value to you – ABC’s member blood centers. Read Full Post >


Let Our Past be Our Rock for the Future

Sometimes when you seem overwhelmed by the challenges of the future, it is comforting to look back at the past. Not that the challenges of the past were less daunting, but knowing that we met those challenges and survived brings peace of mind. Read Full Post >


The Perfect Sunny Day?

There’s the proverbial expression of what happens when many bad variables converge to bring us a “perfect storm.” I wondered recently what we might call it if industry, regulatory, and economic factors all became aligned after decades of discussion to finally bring us pathogen reduction (PR) for US blood products. Were that to happen, might we call this a “perfect sunny day?” Read Full Post >


Risk-Based Decision Making: More Questions than Answers?

There is international consensus that risk-based decision making’s time has come to the blood community. Diverse groups including, the Alliance of Blood Operators (an international group of national blood systems), and more recently, the Food and Drug Administration endorse it as the appropriate framework for creating transfusion safety policies. It’s hard to argue otherwise. In our arena, its foundation lies in understanding two things: resources for blood safety are limited and zero-risk is not attainable. Given the former, recognizing the latter leaves us with hard questions. At the top of the list is answering the question “How safe is safe enough?” – to which we respond, “According to whom?” Read Full Post >


Help Us Help You

Last year, America’s Blood Centers conducted its SEQuaLS member satisfaction survey, where ABC members could pose questions to the ABC and Foundation for America’s Blood Centers staff. One member asked, “Is there a way to make more grants available to member centers?” To provide the short answer – yes, the FABC is working to provide more useful grants to ABC members, but let’s start at the beginning. Read Full Post >


My Crystal Ball is Hazy

Either the strategic drivers shaping the blood community’s environment are at an all time high of flux, or I am suffering from bilateral uveitis – perhaps it is both. Regardless, my crystal ball has never been less clear. Read Full Post >


What Happened to the “I” ?

The acronym for America’s Blood Centers’ “core values,” IDEA, represents Innovation, Data Integration and Benchmarking, Education and Networking, and Advocacy. Although these values are not unique in themselves, they become powerful tools for ABC to serve its members. These tools are where the knowledge and leverage of all outweigh that of one. Read Full Post >


You Ought to Tell the Donor That

A young man donated double red cells at our center about a week before running a marathon; not surprisingly, his performance was awful, and he was angry with us. We didn’t know he was planning to run, and he didn’t know that donating would hurt his performance. After we explained, he calmed down, and said, “Well, you ought to tell the donor that.” How right he was. More and more, we realize donors should know much more about donation, in advance, and we are getting more sophisticated about what to tell them, and how. Read Full Post >


Advocacy Works – Sometimes More Quickly than Other Times

One year ago, an ABC member blood center applied for a variance from Food and Drug Administration labeling regulations requiring results on red blood cell (RBC) labels to be from samples collected “at the time of filling the … blood container” and “on a specimen taken … at the time of collection.” The center requested permission for inclusion of historical RBC phenotyping and genotyping on the integral labels of RBCs (i.e., the base label or attached tie tags). Read Full Post >


Building a Strong Foundation

Since we realigned and streamlined our core values, we came to the realization that not all values are created equal. Some values depend on others to thrive and accomplish their goals. We rely on three values to deliver ABC’s mission of helping community blood centers: advocacy, networking and education, and data integration and benchmarking. Data, however, is at the foundation of our core values and it is through data that we meet goals related to the other two core values. Read Full Post >


On Being Obsessively Data Driven

When I wrote my first “Our Space” column several weeks ago, I shared a draft with my confidant and former medical director, Dr. Louis Katz. His feedback was predictably direct: “I dislike passive voice and it seems quite fluffy.” Although I agreed with his feedback, I approved the draft, believing my first piece should be a bit …well, fluffy. I hope he appreciates the more direct approach this week. Read Full Post >


"Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much" —Helen Keller

When I sat at my desk to write this, my first article for Our Space, I wondered where I should start. Unfortunately, the tragic events of the last couple of weeks have provided a starting point. Read Full Post >


Helping the Helpers

As with so many, my heart is broken over the explosions at the Boston Marathon. Although I cannot fathom the trauma suffered by the victims, families, and witnesses affected, the fact that it happened at a race hits close to home. My husband and his brother have run numerous marathons, I have many friends who run, and I am running a ten miler this weekend. However, because of yet another senseless act of violence ,the excitement of crossing the finish line will be overshadowed by the worry of being one step away from a similar tragedy. Read Full Post >


“Generals are Always Prepared to Fight the Last War”

I was a bit surprised to open Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making, a book by Gary Klein, and find a well-thought-out discussion of a conundrum that has been nagging me my entire career: how do we optimally balance critical thinking, experience, and independent judgment with standardized metrics, standard operating procedures (SOPs), checklists, and job aids? Within the highly regulated and structured environment that we live in today, it may be easy to conclude that SOPs, intensive methodical data gathering, and articulated logic are the ways to achieve optimal safety. While they are incredibly important, especially within transfusion medicine, real-life decision making is messy and often no amount of pre-planning or data gathering will eliminate all risk. Perhaps this is the lesson the precautionary principle is really trying to tell us. Read Full Post >


Of Root Canals, Traffic Jams, and Brussels Sprouts

A recent survey found that Congress is less popular than root canals, traffic jams, and Brussels sprouts. Between partisan wrangling, brinksmanship, and the challenge of coming to agreement, it’s no wonder many would prefer eating their vegetables to watching the legislative process. Read Full Post >


You are ABC

I want to congratulate and thank America’s Blood Centers’ Meetings Committee, ABC staff and members for an excellent Annual Meeting event. The topics were compelling, participant engagement was excellent, and a professional discourse of the highest caliber occurred throughout. These characteristics reflect an association founded on sound fundamentals, which despite our recent change in leadership remain the cornerstone of our work. Indeed, an unwavering focus on our core values as an association has never been more important. Our challenges are daunting, but ABC’s tradition of quality service over the years argues for optimism in the face of these hurdles. Working together, we can leverage our collective expertise and talents to help us continue delivering excellent service for our communities. Read Full Post >