- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2013

A lessening demand for blood products, in part reflecting advances in medicine in general, appears to be causing the blood-banking industry to become even more selective of donors.

A Department of Health and Human Services report released this summer confirms a significant decline in both the demand for and supply of blood.

Blood transfusions fell to 13.8 million units in 2010, about 8 percent fewer than in 2008, according to the 2011 National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey Report.

Not surprisingly, blood collections were also down, by 9 percent, with 15.7 million units collected versus 17.3 million units in 2008, the HHS report says. This reflects an effort by blood collectors to “correct the oversupply” of blood products seen in the previous HHS blood-utilization report.

About 5 percent of the blood collected in 2010 — 752,000 units — was available as “oversupply.” These units were “sufficient to meet transfusion needs” and blood shortages “were rare and significant for only a very few hospitals,” America’s Blood Centers noted in a July newsletter.

The HHS report’s results “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,” wrote Matt Granato, executive vice president for operations at America’s Blood Centers, which represents some 600 blood-collection sites in the United States and Canada.

“Consolidation, diversification and supply-chain integration are all options on the table,” Mr. Granato wrote.

There are many reasons for fewer blood transfusions, including modern surgical techniques, such as “keyhole” incisions, that reduce bleeding; patients’ reuse of their own blood products; and other cost-saving “patient blood-management” strategies.

The U.S. transfusion rate is likely to “continue to drop, and this means a major landscape change for U.S. blood providers,” wrote Mr. Granato. America’s Blood Centers will work with its members to “carve a path of certainty amid uncertain times,” he added.

The Associated Press reported this summer that blood banks in Indiana, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia and Connecticut were coping with their new reality by laying off staff, reducing the size of their operations, holding fewer blood drives and making fewer — but more targeted — appeals for donations.

People with Type O-negative blood, for instance, are sought after because their blood can be transfused into any patient and is thus preferred by emergency responders. “So we have to over-collect that blood group,” Dr. Dan Waxman, executive vice president and chief medical officer of the Indiana Blood Center, told the wire service.

Blood-center leaders say that blood — which has a defined shelf life — is always needed, and both first-time and returning blood donors are highly valued.

However, blood centers are shifting “from a collect-as-much-as-you-can mentality to a collect-to-need mentality,” Dr. Darrell Triulzi, medical director for the Institute for Transfusion Medicine in Pittsburgh and a former president of the American Association of Blood Banks, told The Associated Press.

The idea of collecting only what is needed is “new to the industry,” he said. “We’re still learning how to do that well.”

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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