MEDIC Regional Blood Center: Jim Decker, Chief Executive Officer

by HCE Exchange on November 11, 2011

In the midst of a shaky economy and uncertain developments in the healthcare industry, one Knoxville, Tenn.-based organization continues to move ahead, doing what it’s done best since 1958—collecting and distributing blood to hospitals in its area.

MEDIC Regional Blood Center serves 21 counties in east Tennessee, meeting the blood needs of 27 client hospitals in that region. A private, not-for-profit facility, MEDIC was founded as a centralized base from which blood could be collected, tested, and distributed to area hospitals.

Since its founding in 1958 by Carl Nelson, M.D., MEDIC has achieved this goal above and beyond expectations. It is now a recognized leader in its region and a valuable resource to the hospitals in the various communities it serves.

Supplying the demand

In spite of the many challenges affecting healthcare organizations in 2011, MEDIC continues to make a valiant effort in keeping up with the demands and needs of its client hospitals.

“That has become more challenging in recent years because of a number of factors, but I feel good about the service we provide and the things we do to support our hospitals,” Jim Decker, MEDIC’s chief executive officer, said.

It helps in no small way that MEDIC has shown consistent growth and a steadfast adherence to its core values during its 53 years of existence. Chief among these values is a dedication to MEDIC’s client hospitals and by extension, the patients in those hospitals.

Key to its mission is a definitive passion for the safety and well-being of the surrounding communities.

The organization’s name provides an acronym that defines these values—Membership, Excellence, Dedication, Integrity, and Caring.

“We view the service that we provide as being extremely important and a vital component within the regional healthcare-delivery system,” Decker said.

Surviving rough times

Blood drives are vital to MEDIC’s operations, and Decker stressed the importance of community involvement in maintaining MEDIC’s blood supply.

“Since our service area covers 21 counties, it is extremely important that we work with all local groups, including schools, churches, and other community organizations,” Decker said. “We stress the importance of blood donation and the fact that all blood we collect goes to serve our 27 hospitals.  I think our community residents appreciate that, and I know it is appreciated by our client hospitals.”

In recent years, however, MEDIC has seen an unfortunate development as blood donations have declined.

“During this period of economic downturn, many of our local companies have either downsized or gone out of business,” Decker said. “Since the majority of our blood is collected at mobile blood drives, and many of these are on location at a company, there is simply a smaller pool of donors available to us. We’ve had to look at other venues to conduct blood drives to offset this trend.”

Surveying the future

Technologically speaking, MEDIC is in the middle of implementing a new computer system that will provide a major upgrade to its capabilities, especially with respect to collecting information on all of its donors and tracking the products they have for distribution.

“In early 2012, we plan to go live with the El Dorado Blood Establishment Computer System developed by Haemonetics Software Solutions.  This will provide a tremendous enhancement over our current system,” Decker said.

MEDIC is also looking at new lines of business that would provide it with additional growth opportunities and new revenue streams. One example is cellular therapy, a service that is already being provided by many other blood centers across the United States.

All of these endeavors are part of a larger initiative that seeks to strongly position the organization for a future that is anything but certain. This begins by looking at MEDIC’s operations from an efficiency and productivity standpoint.

“We’re trying to reassess our model to make sure that we are doing things in the most efficient manner,” Decker said.  “We have spent considerable time evaluating key processes, such as donor recruitment and inventory control, as well as our staffing methodology.”

However, Decker points out that MEDIC can only do so much since many of the future factors that would influence policy and organizational strategy in the present remain murky and pliable.

“Until the impact of the healthcare reform shakes out a little bit more, it’s hard to determine exactly what course of action we need to take because right now some things are still somewhat uncertain,” Decker said.

Sticking to its focus

Decker believes there is one practice that makes MEDIC stand out in its area and that will sustain the organization no matter what the future brings. This practice is the nurtured and focused attention MEDIC gives to its hospital clients. From the beginning, MEDIC was established as a partnership with local hospitals, and it continues to refine and expand that partnership.

Decker said there is a continuous stream of information that is shared between MEDIC and its hospital clients with the goal being a solid communication base that enables both parties to know what they can do for each other.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 53 years,” Decker said. “We know we’re going through difficult and challenging times right now as things are somewhat uncertain, but I think the good news is that we feel we have a handle on the majority of those issues and are taking steps to address them. We look forward to another prosperous 50 years.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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