The number of blood transfusions in the United States is shrinking dramatically. This is despite the growing and aging population, normally factors that would increase the use of transfusions. The main drivers for this decrease appear to be improved surgical techniques such as orthoscopic surgery, and computer programs that oversee and limit the use of transfusions. While it may be good news for patients that blood transfusions are on the decline it's clearly coming as a shock to the blood supply system -- particularly the American Red Cross and other smaller suppliers. As reported in the New York Times, the industry is looking at layoffs of around 12,000 employees over the next 3-5 years, which is about a quarter of the workforce. This seems to have caught everyone by surprise, including the unions representing some of these workers.
As with other examples of strategic disruption (e.g. digital photography) although the disruption was visible and trending for years - not the result of some striking cataclysm - either a lack of situational awareness or reluctance to accept what appears to be 'bad news' for the industry - along with the (unjustified) hope that somehow the market will return to what it once was. The blood industry is essential to our healthcare system, but clearly it needs to be re-envisioned to leverage new technologies in a changing market and in a more appropriate business model. Stay tuned, this story has some interesting chapters ahead.