Elizabeth Dole says the American Red Cross has cleaned up its act.
Dole, a former cabinet official and wife of 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, said the Red Cross has quietly invested $287 million since 1991 to overhaul the way it collects, processes and delivers blood.
The agency, which distributes nearly half the nation's blood supply, has been trying to improve its image since the early 1990s, when reports surfaced that hospital patients had been infected with HIV-tainted blood products. Dole became president of the Red Cross in 1991, shortly after the scandal rocked the agency, and immediately instituted an internal makeover. She outlined details of the "transformation" project in a speech at last week's American Hospital Association meeting in Washington.
"In 1991 the risk of HIV transmission from a blood transfusion was 1 in 220,000," Dole said. "Today, it is 1 in 676,000 -- more than a threefold reduction in the risk of transmission of this dread disease."
The transformation included standardizing donor recruitment, collections, testing, processing and distribution. The Red Cross spent an estimated $169 million on integrating 28 computer systems into a centralized information center. It also replaced 53 testing facilities with eight new high-tech laboratories.
The goal, Dole said, is to build trust and customer loyalty with patients and providers. Red Cross recently added Boone Powell Jr., president and chief executive officer of Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, to its Biomedical Service Board.
"We need the skills and knowledge of the people who run America's hospitals, information technology professionals, manufacturers and scientists," Dole said.
Recent results are promising. Dole said blood collection during the past six months was 140,000 units ahead of the year-ago period.