by Korhan Ereren
What is Red Gold? Well, it’s the single-most-important cellular organism on the planet: blood. The Red Cross and other charitable organizations are fighting to get blood and blood products into the people that need them most. When the worldwide shutdown began in 2020, behaviors of people changed, which included regularly donating blood. Without the help of volunteers, the country will face severe shortages of blood products.
First, let’s begin with what blood and blood products do for people. Blood is used in healthcare to help support patients with life-threatening incidences and illnesses to continue living. They are four types of blood: A, B, AB, and O, each with its own positive and negative variants. Blood platelets work as a clotting agent, which allows for cuts and wounds to heal correctly. People who undergo cancer treatment fall susceptible to low platelet and blood counts requiring regular transfusions. The threshold to get blood and platelet products are getting lower, meaning if you have platelets of 20,000 in 2019 with a limit of 30,000 on lab reports, one will get their blood products. As of November 2021, the City of Hope Cancer Center has a threshold of 15,000. Some people traveling far to these centers are turned away only to come back and check to see if they make the threshold. In addition, surgical centers and emergency rooms require a certain number of blood products on hand to treat trauma patients.
After understanding how blood and blood products work, one must also understand the second part: supply chain management. With supplies of blood and blood products running low, movement and handling have also been a challenge for the healthcare industry. Blood needs to be handled in safe environments and handled in certain temperatures before giving them to patients. Hospitals need nurses capable of handling the products, and phlebotomists are required to be proficient in intravenous (IV) line execution, both of which require human capital. When the supply of people is willing to work in high-risk areas with the ongoing pandemic, so does the collection of blood products.
There has never been a dollar value that people would pay for blood. It’s immoral to charge blood donation as a service since it benefits society, and it would be unethical to commoditize it. But what if individuals who want to donate blood can still do so by having the phlebotomist come to their home? The gig economy has proved that people are willing to give up certain privacies to earn extra income with Uber, Airbnb, GrubHub, and Instacart. If hospitals had dedicated staff to drive out and collect blood, more people would be inclined to donate in the comfort of their own homes. Proper screening and protocols would be in place to ensure the safety of collection and handling to transport the products safely.
Sadly, the likelihood of such a service existing is low. Healthcare industry protocols make for challenging obstacles for businesses. Without the buy-in of major stakeholders (blood donators, drivers, phlebotomists, and institutions), a service cannot exist. While hospitals are managing the current supply of blood products, the foreseeable future looks grim. However, like all previous catastrophic events in history, this too, shall pass.
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