In 2018–2019, Canadian Blood Services achieved two significant milestones that helped frame our activities throughout the year and more clearly defined our path forward.
The first was the renewal of our corporate brand. On September 28, 2018, after months of collaborative effort across the organization, we hosted a webcast event at our Ottawa headquarters and eight other locations nationwide. Donors, recipients, volunteers and employees shared their personal perspectives on the sense of purpose embodied in our reinvented brand — how our refreshed vision, mission and values help to strengthen the infinite connections by which we’re meeting the needs of Canadian patients for blood, plasma, stem cells, and organs and tissues.
In subsequent marketing and communications campaigns, we’ve showcased our redesigned logo and a new tagline: Together, we are Canada’s lifeline. The response from Canadians has been emphatically positive. But our brand is far more than a logo and a tagline. It’s what sets us apart. It’s an expression of who we are and what we believe in, as individuals and as an organization. And it signals how we’ll work with our diverse community of partners and stakeholders to deliver on our promise to Canadians.
Sharing our five-year strategy
The other key milestone of the past year was the publication of Keeping the Promise: 2019–2024 Strategic Plan. Building on the foundation of our existing strategy, this roadmap for the future sets out operational priorities in five areas:
- Meet changing patient needs by providing lifesaving products and services.
- Build and deepen relationships with the donors of the future.
- Ensure a secure supply of Canadian plasma for immune globulin (Ig).
- Create an engaging and empowering employee experience.
- Achieve organizational excellence.
Guided by this strategic framework and the sense of purpose captured in our brand, Canadian Blood Services is more focused than ever, as the theme of this year’s annual report suggests, on the decisions and actions we must take every day to turn our promise into reality.
Exceeding performance targets
Those efforts are yielding tangible results. In 2018–2019, we exceeded our target for whole blood collection, which enabled us to maintain robust inventories while responding promptly and effectively to hospitals’ evolving needs. We also achieved productivity metrics above the annual indicators established for donor recruitment, blood testing and production. And not coincidentally, we saw our survey scores for both employee engagement and public trust — which have always been consistently strong — rise to the highest levels in our history.
Ensuring Canada’s plasma sufficiency
In sharpening our strategic focus on securing Canada’s plasma supply, a key building block has been the comprehensive plan we presented two years ago to provincial and territorial governments. As of March 2019, we’ve received approval to set up three stand-alone, proof-of-concept plasma donor centres — the initial phase in a plan that envisions a network of plasma collection sites across the country, all integrated with the Canadian Blood Services supply chain. When fully realized, it will enable us to achieve cost-effective and sustainable operations well into the future. As this report goes to press, development is proceeding on sites in three communities that match our selection criteria and provide necessary geographic diversity — Sudbury, Ontario; Lethbridge, Alberta; and Kelowna, British Columbia. The first site is scheduled to open in late spring of 2020.
We were pleased to receive a green light for this program, which takes advantage of our deep blood donation expertise and existing infrastructure. However, as the use of (Ig) therapies continues to rise, Canada’s plasma sufficiency is now estimated at less than 13.5 per cent. If current trends continue, it will fall below 10 per cent within the next five years, leaving more than 90 per cent of Canadians who require Ig drugs totally dependent on plasma supplied from other countries. Meanwhile, growing demand will increase pressure on prices worldwide and, in some cases, availability could be threatened.
With work well underway on our initial three donor centres, we’re now taking the critical first steps toward increasing Canada’s domestic plasma supply. But to raise the sufficiency level while appropriately balancing risk and cost, all stakeholders recognize that there’s much more work to be done. As we make clear in our strategic plan, increasing our capacity to collect more plasma as well as our ability to recruit more plasma donors are top priorities for the next five years and beyond.
Balancing stakeholders’ expectations
Another vital aspect of the role Canadian Blood Services plays in this area is our management of the national formulary for plasma protein products (PPPs). In 2018–2019, Canada’s health systems invested nearly $700 million to provide these drugs to patients with a variety of immune disorders, bleeding disorders and other diseases requiring plasma protein replacement therapy. We’ve used our leverage as a major bulk purchaser to negotiate multi-year contracts with PPP providers, yielding more than $1 billion in cost savings and avoidance since 2014.
However, as clinicians continue to find new applications for existing products — and as researchers discover additional, highly specialized Ig therapies for a wide range of conditions — rising demand is outpacing both the rigorous forecasts prepared by our formulary and the budget projections of provincial and territorial health ministries.
We’re responding to this challenge by conducting, in partnership with the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), a thorough reassessment of the product selection process for PPPs. As detailed in this annual report, the new process looks at the complex scientific, medical, social and economic factors that must be weighed in all decision-making, including, crucially, the preferences and concerns of patients.
This is an important initiative and we’ve made good progress. But it’s not work that can be localized within the purview of the PPP formulary. Our insights must inform a larger conversation about how we can balance the needs of stakeholders with the realities of prudent fiscal management. This is the challenge being tackled by health ministries and public drug plans around the world, which includes Canada’s federal government as it explores the possibility of national pharmacare.
Meeting tomorrow’s needs — every day
Managing diverse expectations, finding opportunities to continuously improve, meeting new and often disruptive challenges — this is what the employees and stakeholders of Canadian Blood Services are doing every day. The stories in this report highlight our collective efforts to help patients live longer, healthier lives; to continuously improve the quality of products and services; to transform the donor experience in a world reshaped by technology; to share breakthrough research and leading clinical practices; and to strengthen employee engagement by fostering a dynamic, inclusive and mutually supportive culture.
As our brand renewal and strategy initiatives show, Canadian Blood Services is constantly modernizing in response to an environment that never stops changing. After more than 20 years, our organization has matured to the point where we’re able to execute against today’s most pressing priorities while at the same time innovating to meet the needs of tomorrow. And we’re doing it every day.
Dr. Graham D. Sher
Chief Executive Officer