Independent blood centers announced plans last week to expand cost-cutting services to hospitals and cooperate more effectively through their national association.
The move could intensify competition in the more than $2 billion U.S. blood-services field.
The American Red Cross, which supplies about 45% of U.S. blood, already offers some cost-cutting services, such as computerized blood matching (Nov. 13, 1995, p. 10).
Many independent centers have complained of the Red Cross' aggressive sales tactics. Los Angeles-based HemaCare Corp. went further. It filed an antitrust suit against the Red Cross, and a trial is expected next spring (Dec. 11, 1995, p. 4).
Members of the independent blood-center association supply an estimated 42% to 45% of blood products.
The balance of the nation's blood supply comes from individual hospitals or the military.
Previously known as the Council of Community Blood Centers, the Washington-based association changed its name last week to America's Blood Centers.
To support new activities, its annual budget will grow to $1.5 million from about $1 million, said Toby Simon, M.D., president of the association.
The association plans to expand its program to share blood between centers, thus easing regional shortages. It also is considering developing national programs for quality assurance and employee training, Simon said. It has established a toll-free telephone number for hospitals seeking information (1-888-USBLOOD).
In addition, it has held preliminary talks with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. about forming a blood-center network to manage transfusion services for Columbia hospitals, Simon said.
Drawing on the experiences of their peers in the association, many blood centers are developing value-added programs. They include centralized transfusion services, blood utilization review, physician education and inventory management.
"We have always worked together," Simon said of independent centers. "The major difference is going to be that we will be more proactive in developing programs."
Calling the association an "alternative approach" to the Red Cross, Simon said it's emphasizing its members' community roots.