More blood banks merging to cut costs

Officials cite need for new model

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The proposed merger of Green Tree’s Institute for Transfusion Medicine with Florida-based OneBlood is the latest in a series of blood bank consolidations nationally, symptomatic of lean times for hospitals as they try to cut costs and reduce transfusions.

The deal, announced July 25, would create one of the largest blood banks in the country, with combined revenues of $480 million, if it goes through. The two firms jointly distribute nearly 2 million units of blood annually, serving 313 hospitals in eight states.

Only the American Red Cross would collect and distribute more blood.

The Institute for Transfusion Medicine operates the Central Blood Bank, and has locations in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Illinois.

The Green Tree institute, which goes by the initials ITxM, did not return emails seeking comment, but OneBlood’s spokeswoman, Susan Forbes, said “hospital consolidation is a driving force” behind the merger.

Between 2008 and 2011, transfusions dropped more than 8 percent nationally, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The cost of blood products — plasma, red blood cells, platelets — have been rising for years, which is one reason why transfusion and blood-lab budgets are being targeted for more aggressive cost-management by hospitals.

In a story that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday, UPMC’s Jonathan Waters, medical director of the network’s blood management program, explained that UPMC is trying to cut down on blood waste both by ordering it more intelligently, and by changing clinical orthodoxy so that transfusions are approved less often. UPMC says it has saved $5 million since 2012, equivalent to 40,000 units of blood.

As the blood banks find themselves getting squeezed, the industry has been turning to consolidation. OneBlood is itself the product of a 2012 merger of three smaller Florida blood banks. It has laid off about 100 employees since last summer.

“It’s a different time,” Ms. Forbes said. “We can’t rely on the business model of the past.”


Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.

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