Five years ago, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) needed to find out what impact Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease or mad cow disease — a problem then confined to the U.K and Europe — would have on the Canadian blood supply and its donors.
The agency needed to know how deferral rules — those rules which prevented Canadians from donating blood if they had visited farms in the U.K. or come in contact with cow brain matter in the previous three or six months — would affect blood drives and the overall blood supply.
The problem was that the CBS did not have a business intelligence solution (BI) that could take information from its 14 different databases and analyze it in a meaningful way to provide the information needed. These databases had been in place since CBS was the Canadian Red Cross and had independent branches across the country in charge with collecting blood.
Andy Shaw, director of operational systems with CBS in Ottawa decided the first step was to consolidate the information spread among the separate databases onto a single Oracle database. Cognos’s PowerPlay OLAP analytic and Web reporting solution was added on top.
PowerPlay runs a set of multidimensional analysis tools which let organizations like CBS place information in a “cube” that can be examined in any variety of ways. These cubes are data sets containing millions of rows of data pertaining to hundreds of categories that the user can set. Business rules and calculations can be built into the cubes and reports can be delivered to users over the Web or those using Microsoft Windows and Excel.
Shaw said CBS first created a set of “What If” scenarios to analyze the agency’s data and see how different deferral programs in response to mad cow would affect blood donations.
“Such as ‘What if we implemented a three month ban or a six month ban,’ or ‘What if we extended the ban to France and Germany,’” Shaw said. “We wanted to know how each of those possible decisions would affect our donations. The business case we had was (that) we needed insight into the impacts of those decisions.”
Shaw said CBS realized PowerPlay would also be useful in helping the agency improve its blood donor drives to increase the amount of blood collected and distributed across Canada.
Using PowerPlay, CBS broke down its donor information by location, which people were most likely to be repeat donors and when was the last time that person donated blood, and whether blood collections were affected by the drive’s time of the year.
The ability to gather such specific information helped target donation drives and maximize the amount of blood collected, even the kinds of blood needed when shortages of particular blood products in certain regions or hospitals in Canada became known.
“To the casual outsider, blood is blood,” Shaw said. “But there is a lot of complexity,” he said. Different types of blood are required at different times, at different hospitals, in different regions, he explained. Not to mention the fact blood has a finite shelf life.
“What the system does is allow us to determine the demand for (blood) products and then to target the right donors to show up at the right time, at the right clinic, in the right city so we can produce the necessary products at the time they are needed.”
The system has done its job. CBS reported that 2003 had the highest number of blood units collected in its five-year history. In all, 842,366 units of whole blood were collected, mad cow constraints notwithstanding.