Hospitals Forming Own Blood Collection Centers to Combat Rising Prices, Shortages
In an effort to combat the rising price of blood and gain more control over local blood supplies, hospitals nationwide are banding together to form their own centers for collecting and processing blood, the Los Angeles Times reports. The collection and sale of blood is a $2 billion industry, and many hospitals purchase blood products from traditional suppliers such as the American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers. However, the price of blood has "escalated dramatically," reaching nearly $200 per pint in some areas. In addition, blood supplies are "unsettlingly low" in many regions following the "traditionally slow summer donor season." To combat the rising costs, 10 hospitals based in the Charlotte, N.C. area announced last month that they were breaking away from the Red Cross to form their own blood collection and processing center. Hospital administrators believe that they can market blood for $150 per pint, saving $3 million per year. Administrators said that they want to maintain control of the blood supply within the community because "decisions made in Washington or St. Louis by a large, bureaucratic organization such as the Red Cross were not always in the best local interests." David Anderson, vice president for ambulatory and ancillary services at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, S.C., said, "Blood is a product like anything else. We shop around to get the best price on everything. But with blood there was nowhere we could shop. It turned out the only way to compete was to do it ourselves." Hospitals in Raleigh and Winston-Salem, N.C., also are considering implementing their own community blood banks.
The Times reports that the hospitals' decision to form a local blood collection center is "an unusual step that is likely to heighten competition and aggressive marketing in the blood business," but other similar efforts have been challenged by large blood suppliers. When a group of hospitals in Missouri decided to form a local blood center seven years ago, the Red Cross sued the new facility, alleging "theft of trade secrets and improper business practices." Red Cross spokesperson Rick LeGrand said that although the Red Cross supports efforts that increase donor turnout, the group is concerned that Charlotte's blood center "might just move donors from one group to another, thus not increasing the donor base." He added that when the Red Cross collects blood in a region, the blood is first offered to meet regional needs before it is sent to other areas facing a shortage (Lamb, Los Angeles Times, 8/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.