University of Southern Indiana

Fortsch's Research on Nation's Blood Supply Impacts Policy Makers

Dr. Sima Fortsch, Assistant Professor of Management, has received national recognition for her ongoing involvement in studying our nation’s blood supply chain management. Her research has been particularly important during the pandemic when blood is in very short supply. Fortsch’s research article, “The Pandemic, and the Strategic Vulnerability of the Blood Supply Chain,” examines how the coronavirus shutdown caused significant problems with donor and volunteer availability in the United States, which could have collapsed the nation’s blood supply chain.

Dr FortschFortsch gave some background on her research interest. “I chose to study blood supply chain management in 2010 for my PhD dissertation. The idea to research blood was that the aging populous had reached nearly 50% of the population across many world regions. This trend has had significant consequences for our nation and the world regarding blood (the older population has a higher demand for blood.) In the spring of 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) published an article that refers to the last decade as “the calm before the storm” due to lack of sufficient blood to save lives for this decade. Similarly, for the first time in history, during the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the host country was worried about the lack of blood inventory and possible catastrophic consequences due to having more than 10,000 athletes, not to mention the public, attending the event.

“Today, the blood-inventory margins are below the safety level worldwide due to inventory costs and lack of available donors. This has caused one of the world’s oldest charitable organizations, the Red Cross, to suffer from the rising blood operation costs. This is problematic because the community blood centers are essential for hospitals’ profitability, and many of these blood centers are losing money on their per-unit sales and are worried about survival (RAND, 2016). Therefore, in 2010, I worked with the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), a government organization, to obtain time-series data and analyze the blood inventory management for my dissertation.” 

Fortsch published research papers in the journal Operations Research for Healthcare between 2016-2018. During the pandemic she connected with blood community centers in Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and New York as well as several major hospitals in Michigan and New York states. Fortsch was contacted by the CEO of the Commonwealth Transfusion Foundation, a foundation for blood research, and awarded a $45,000 grant to write a research article and present it at their annual meeting. “As I started to write my paper, the pandemic hit and I adjusted my goal to accommodate the pandemic,” she said. The foundation had a think-tank meeting in which she presented her work. Many blood center CEOs, government officials and five representatives from the U.S. Congress were present. “I presented my work and answered all their questions.”

Fortsch’s research article concluded that “the Covid-19 outbreak focused attention on some of the existing vulnerabilities of the blood operation that have been mostly ignored and now urgently need to be addressed.” Her team offers strategic and operational strategies for mitigating risk.

“Dr. Forsch’s research and expertise in the blood supply chain highlight the importance of thought leadership faculty can have in society. We are very proud and fortunate that she uses her expertise in such an innovative way with such far reaching impact,” noted Dr. Cathy Carey, Dean of the Romain College.

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