The Blood Bank Guy: A Conversation with Dr. Joe Chaffin Part III

During the last interview you gave us your 5-year projection as to what you saw as the most important changes to the industry – Patient Blood Management, Cellular Therapy and the integration of molecular techniques. Two years down the road have your views changed?  What else do you see on the horizon?

o   I still see those three things as crucial and think that the past two years have only reinforced my thoughts from back then. In addition, the current financial climate in our industry is rapidly taking us to places we have not seen before. The consolidation of hospitals into large systems, in conjunction with the startling financial savings some large institutions have reported after implementation of PBM programs, as well as a commodity approach to blood by hospital supply chain folks, has led to an era of unprecedented declines in blood product pricing. Saving money seems like such a great thing for a hospital, of course, but I’m not sure how much of that savings is being passed on to patients (the cynic in me says very little). Further, the millions of dollars of revenue being removed from blood centers has led to an environment where consolidations, mergers, and affiliations of blood centers is inevitable.

Since we’re discussing changes in the industry, how do you see the current merger and affiliation mania especially amongst blood centers playing out? Do you think it will lead to better service and patient care?

o   Caveat: I can’t and don’t speak either for my blood center or for any organization with which my blood center is affiliated. I am currently in the middle of “merger and affiliation mania,” as you aptly put it, so it’s hard to have perspective on this issue. I will say that, in my opinion, mergers and affiliations are usually done with a primary aim of reducing costs and stabilizing or increasing revenues rather than improving service. I think that some of them can lead to better service (in particular, if a smaller center is now able to offer more advanced procedures and products by affiliating or merging with a larger system), but I also think that some of what makes medicine fun is lost in the process. Specifically, fewer smaller, independent centers can mean fewer dissenting opinions and less variety, and I think that we as an industry are strengthened when people are trying different things in different places. The short answer: We will see.

What are your thoughts on centers diversifying their product and services offered? For example, some options out there are large volume plasma collections for manufacturing, large volume blood grouping by DNA sequencing, and manufacturing of CAR-T or other immune based products.

o   Diversification of products and services is not optional for blood centers in 2017 and beyond. Due to decreasing demand for our product (a good thing) and decreasing blood product pricing (ummm, a good thing for someone!), blood centers must move in different directions to keep their doors open! You have mentioned some options, and certainly, cellular therapy offers many possibilities, but they often feel somewhat vaguely defined. There is no “one size fits all answer” out there, and centers must try to define what they can do to distinguish themselves. Some have chosen to move heavily into new research, while others have focused on performing collections for cellular therapy products, and still others on supplying raw materials for further manufacture.

What do you think our industry will look like in 5-10 more years? 

What have we learned from the recent changes that have faced our industry?

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 Tomorrow: The Blood Bank Guy: A Conversation with Dr. Joe Chaffin Part IV

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