Bloodbuy Averts Critical Blood Shortages Nationwide with its Cloud-Based Platform
Emily Skahill | June 9, 2018
Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the US, according to the Red Cross. A single car accident victim can require up to 100 pints of blood. Many hospitals, however, face recurring blood shortages due to the localized nature of blood supply and distribution.
Founded by healthcare entrepreneur Christopher Godfrey, Bloodbuy addresses the uneven geographic distribution of available blood supply in real-time through a cloud-based platform that allows hospitals to shop for blood. Bloodbuy promotes price transparency by publishing blood product cost averages and other key market indicators for network participants. To date, Bloodbuy has facilitated transactions between nearly 100 hospitals and independent blood banks in 25 states and the US Virgin Islands. Brigham and Women’s Hospital reportedly saved over $100,000 during the first 45 days of placing orders on the platform.
We spoke with Bloodbuy CEO Chris Godfrey about how Bloodbuy is improving health care delivery by centralizing blood supply.
What was your initial inspiration for Bloodbuy?
What really piqued my interest was an ice storm in Dallas several years ago that coincided with the 2011 Super Bowl. When a snowstorm blows in and causes several days of adverse weather, that makes it challenging for the local blood center to mobilize their bloodmobiles, get out and collect. And obviously, people are less enthusiastic about making their way through the snow to the blood center to donate. So it creates this acute spot shortage as a result of the weather event.
That’s what really piqued my interest – seeing that news story and wondering, ‘Gosh. With modern technology and infrastructure, how could something as predictable as a weather event create such a significant public health risk?’
That got me thinking, ‘How do we rally resources from other parts of the country that aren’t experiencing this type of event to get [blood products] to where they’re needed?’
Can you explain your background leading up to Bloodbuy?
I got my business degree from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. After spending some time working in private equity in the healthcare space at HealthCap Partners, I was inspired to pursue a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Leadership from Brown University. That background gave me the experience to identify and address a crucial pain point in the healthcare industry: a hyper-fragmented blood supply infrastructure.
How does Bloodbuy’s technology work in connecting blood centers and hospitals?
We operate a cloud-based platform. Think of something as simple as Facebook, and how it connects individuals all across the world and allows them to interact in ways not previously possible. What we’re doing is leveraging the same network effect.
You have all these entities – in our case, it’s hospitals and blood centers – and historically, they’ve all been geographically siloed. We’re now connecting them to other facilities all across the country. We’ve created a platform where hospitals can communicate to blood centers not only their inventory needs for various blood products, but also interact around them. This removes much of that localized concentration risk that you would otherwise have.
Who are your top competitors, and what sets you apart?
We don’t have any direct competitors, in terms of a technology-enabled platform that address this particular pain point, at the moment.
Our primary competitor is just the incumbent method – the way things have always been done. It’s really tough to evolve processes in healthcare. It takes a long time to adopt things. There’s just a lot of inertia built up in the way healthcare organizations do things. It’s very tough to get them to change, so that’s really our primary competition
How do you generate revenue?
We don’t participate in the chain of custody of those blood products. The blood products go directly from the blood center to the recipient hospital, or often times, directly from one blood center to another blood center. We’re leveraging technology to redistribute that blood supply more effectively.
Our model is simply an online platform, not too dissimilar from Priceline or Expedia – where we connect individuals or organizations that need these products with the entities that have them. We charge a small transactional fee on what is exchanged. There are no subscription fees or anything to that effect. Due to the tumultuous environment in healthcare over the past several years, a lot of hospitals are financially-challenged. But regardless of their financial state, they’re all trying to find ways to generate cost-savings and operate more efficiently. So we don’t want to layer on subscription fees. We generate revenue if we’re adding value and it’s a healthy marketplace.
Can you explain how participating in—and winning—the Harvard Health Acceleration Challenge impacted the development of your company, and what insights it gave you?
That was a really pivotal experience for us as a very young organization. The Harvard Forum on Health Care Innovation is a collaboration between Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School that was formed to identify and address massive pain points in healthcare. We were one of about 500 submittals from all over the world, and we ended up winning the entire competition. It was a very, very rigorous evaluation process that spanned 18 months.
Our participation did a couple of things. First, we gained access to some advisers that we probably would not have had access to if not for that particular competition’s ability to leverage the Harvard network. Second, there was a tremendous amount of validation, both for us and potential customers, because I think people appreciate the fact that the Harvard Forum on Health Care Innovation is an esteemed entity and that our ability to emerge from that competition as the winner was a significant accomplishment. Winning that competition set us off on a very interesting trajectory.
Are there any other notable milestones in Bloodbuy’s development?
Another pivotal event in the maturation of our entity was when we participated in a strategic financing – what served as our de facto series A funding round. We accepted institutional capital from Premier, Inc. and Providence St. Joseph Health. Premier is primarily positioned as a healthcare improvement company, and they’re a massively influential entity in the healthcare supply chain and healthcare solutions space.
In that same financing round, we accepted capital from Providence St. Joseph Health – one of the largest not-for-profit healthcare provider organizations in the country. We had significant capital availability following that event to help grow our business. But more importantly, we had strategic partnerships with both of those capital providers. It wasn’t just us taking on capital for growth purposes. It was really aligning with those organizations to not only better position our solution, but to deploy it in a meaningful way – from a go-to-market standpoint.
What are your key development plans moving forward?
Right now, it’s about continuing to grow the company and improve our tech. We’re supplying several thousand blood products a month, and obviously, we want to continue to grow that volume, which is purely a measure of the impact we’re making on this critical healthcare vertical. We want to be a significant player in terms of facilitating the most effective, efficient distribution of these blood products throughout the country, and potentially internationally. And that’s largely dictated by our ability to effectively acquire new customers and grow our network. We work with roughly 100 hospitals in 25 states and the US Virgin Islands, and expanding that network is one of our primary goals right now.
Additionally, we want to make sure that interactions with our platform are as frictionless as possible, so users can get in, derive the value that they need, and get out. We don’t want “technology” to be an impediment to workflow.
Also, we’re constantly focusing on evolving our solution as it relates to blood as our core category. The way we view our future in terms of growth is that blood and blood products are the foundational category for us from a product development standpoint. For many, many years, all Amazon focused on was books, and they got really great at selling books online. That’s our focus in terms of how we view blood as a foundational category within healthcare; blood is our books. If we can get really good at developing our platform and delivering value around this complex fundamental category, there are a whole host of immediately adjacent product categories, some of which we’re already evaluating, that we can then begin to branch into.