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.

When I first came to the Community Blood Center in Kansas City in 1975 as their controller, we did very little testing compared with today, we prepared our budgets by doing the expense side first, and our only real challenge was meeting the blood needs that were growing at a very rapid pace. Well, we met that challenge. Then came the eighties and the AIDS epidemic. AIDS, and its impact on the blood supply and the patients we served, rocked our whole world. We had a difficult time believing the good we did - providing blood - could actually cause harm and even death. We scrambled to develop new procedures and tests to protect patients. Well, we met that challenge.

Our blood supply is safer today than it has ever been. The 1990s began with rising costs for the addition of new tests, a move towards new quality standards, and leukocyte reduced red cells, all to protect the blood supply. Although, blood costs were a small part of a hospital total budget, it was large in the hospital laboratory budget. Hospitals began seeking cheaper blood; we no longer prepared our budgets from the expense side, and competition began among blood providers. Well, we survived those challenges. The 2000s have brought us more competition, more mergers and alliances, an ample blood supply, and the Great Recession. The result has been better blood management that has reduced transfusions significantly, more cost containment, and a push to provide appropriate healthcare to all through the Affordable Care Act.

Our crystal ball to help us predict the future might be cloudy right now, but I take comfort in knowing that, as we have with past challenges, we will survive. Our blood programs might change and many faces will too, but in the end we will survive. We will continue to bring the volunteer donor's gift of life to the patients we serve.

William Coenen, Interim CEO; wmcoenen@americasblood.org 

Posted: 07/12/2013 | By: William Coenen, Interim CEO | Permalink
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