“This is an evolving industry and total blood management is becoming a key part of initiatives hospitals are undertaking as they look holistically at transfusion medicine,” President and CEO James Covert says. “They are looking for ways to transfuse less because of the expenses involved, so we are looking to enhance transfusion practices.”

Pieces of the puzzle

The two-decades-old ITxM is structured into seven subsidiary groups. It has two blood centers, Central Blood Bank in Pittsburgh and LifeSource in Chicago. Then there is the Blood Science Foundation, which was founded nearly 60 years ago and provides philanthropic support to nonprofit research and educational organizations that mirror ITxM’s mission. Beyond that, ITxM Clinical Services works with medical professionals on a global basis, delivering evidence-based transfusion medicine services.

In addition, ITxM Diagnostics provides therapeutic and coagulation reference testing services, working with more than 50 hospitals in western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio. There is also the LifeSource Donor Testing Lab, which is among the largest donor testing facilities in the country.

Finally, there is ITxM’s Research Institute. As part of a partnership with University of Pittsburgh, ITxM established a Research Institute in Hemostasis and Vascular Biology that looks to enhance medical knowledge of blood and blood disorders and find better treatments.

“As the parent company, ITxM provides all of the financial accounting, HR and legal support as well as overall healthcare management expertise that the business units need,” Covert says. “That allows them to focus on day-to-day issues from industry and market perspectives. Our job centrally is to set expectations, provide support and hold people accountable for the results, and I think our structure allows us to do that.”

Embracing change

Each piece of the organization has faced challenges in recent years. The blood centers have dealt with declining product demand caused by a changing market as well as a difficult economy and its impact on donations. But ITxM did see a mobile collections increase of about 2 percent thanks to new programs and expansion of relationships with key donors.

To increase donor retention and frequency of giving,  ITxM launched the DonorID computer-based system that automates donor registration, health history screening and phlebotomy documentation. It also helped reduce errors and costs and improve safety and the donation experience. Other improvements to blood center operations include moving LifeSource’s headquarters to a world-class facility in Rosemont, Ill., and creating an Enterprise Data Warehouse.

At ITxM Clinical Services, one recent focus has been taking advantage of the move of its Chicago facilities to Rosemont and redesigning its cord blood operating space. It invested in employees, completing a blood bank training class for several transfusion services staffers and developing a classroom and laboratory training program for support staff. The clinical services business unit has also added IT interfaces with Centralized Transfusion Services (CTS) customers, doing away with paper orders and enhancing service quality and security.

“Throughout ITxM, we are certainly leveraging IT to help us become more efficient,” Covert says. “For example, DonorID has improved the entire blood donation process and will make us the first blood center in the U.S. to be 100 percent paperless. That is one example of how we can use technology to drive efficiency in the organization.”

As for ITxM Diagnostics, internal growth and external partnerships are seen as keys to success. In the last year, it launched the Pathways web-based order entry and result delivery program, automated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing, upgraded its coagulation analyzers, created a marketing and sales relationship with SpringFire Laboratory Network and installed an electronic specimen tracking system. ITxM Diagnostics also added Dendreon collections and photopheresis procedures in Pittsburgh and a hemapheresis program in Chicago.

The move to the Rosemont facility provided the LifeSource Donor Testing Lab with 17,000 square feet of space. That is more than double its previous size. Meanwhile, the Blood Science Foundation continued funding active projects and now has a total financial commitment of more than $1 million.

Pillars of the plan

Lastly, the Research Institute participated in many projects and found many funding sources, including earning a seven-year, multimillion-dollar contract for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Blood Institute Recipient Epidemiology and Donor Evaluation Study (REDSIII). “Research is a key pillar of our strategic plan, and it will help us improve the quality of life of patients,” Covert says.

Serving an array of customers that includes 100 hospitals in the Pittsburgh and Chicago areas, ITxM plays an invaluable role in patient treatment. During the last fiscal year, it distributed around 383,000 red blood cell units and 346,000 units of platelets, plasma and other manufactured blood products; conducted 48,000 diagnostic tests and procedures; and completed 587,000 clinical services tests and more than one million external donor panels. Although healthcare is in uncharted waters, Covert says ITxM has a strong sense of where it is going.

“Our priorities include meeting the needs of our hospitals and the patients, ensuring there is adequate supply and focusing on reducing our cost structure so we can compete,” Covert says. “We will continue to look for ways that we can be more efficient and provide the same quality of service at more competitive prices. We are embracing change and looking for opportunities to provide solutions to our hospital customers.”

 


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