Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reconsidering Inventory Management of Blood

Inventory management not only effects a business’s bottom line, but in some settings it may impact the consumer’s health and wellness. Albeit, I am not referring to the typical business that comes to mind when discussing inventory management. I am referring to the business of selling blood to hospitals to be used for transfusions.

Authors of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, a medical journal, recently came out in favor of a new modernized blood management system. Their push was motivated by a literature review which presented evidence that blood stored for longer amounts of time may have negative impacts on the transfusion recipient. Until randomized experiments that are currently under way have concluded, the scientists do not have substantial proof to back up their claims of correlation.

In the meantime, the journal is encouraging blood businesses to review their inventory management systems in order to reduce blood storage times. Most blood management systems operate on a first-in, first-out principal, rather than other inventory strategies (such as just in-time delivery) which prioritize holding smaller amounts of inventory.

The hypothesized link between the age of the blood and a patient’s health does not seem to be surprising news to the medical community. The Alliance for Community Transfusion Services (ACTS), a group of Texas and Oklahoma blood centers, are already in the process of implementing a new software system called HemaControl to manage blood across the supply chain. Once blood inventory information is entered into HemaControl, the software matches it with demand plans based on specific demand needs, such as ABO blood type and location. Changes in demand and inventory are used to change how much blood is taken from donors, thereby building flexibility into the inventory process.

While new technologies like HemaControl will likely improve patient care, it is unclear if the cost savings from inventory reduction will offset the cost of implementing the new technology. Not to sound unsympathetic, but at a time of record high health care costs in the U.S., this is an important trade-off to consider. Do you think HemaControl will save money for the Alliance for Community Transfusion Services blood centers?

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

HemaControl and the Alliance for Community Transfusion Services

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