In a change that aligned its employees, donors, and volunteers of its four-state service region under a single identity, Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) changed its name to ImpactLife on May 3, 2021. The not-for-profit community blood center is the blood provider to more than 125 hospitals in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and was previously known by three different names: Central Illinois Community Blood Center, Community Blood Services of Illinois, and Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.
ImpactLife has experienced steady growth as it has adjusted to changes within the industry over the last four decades. ImpactLife is a not-for-profit organization that was established to bring the concept of shared blood services to life in the Quad Cities region. By uniting the Rock Island County, Illinois and Scott County, Iowa blood banks our founders helped the community work together toward a common goal: a safe, plentiful supply of blood for patients in local hospitals.
On a national level, the first blood centers were founded in the 1940s, primarily in response to the need for component technology and storage to support the War effort. The first regulations were introduced through the National Institutes of Health, and in 1947 the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) was founded just as many local communities were developing their own community blood centers.
The 1970’s saw a major shift in blood banking culture toward tightly controlled, process-oriented regulations, and away from biologic, hospital-based control. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for current Good Manufacturing Practices were promulgated, along with a separation of blood products into those derived from volunteer and paid donors. A total of 17,000 post-transfusion cases of hepatitis were reported, and the first hepatitis test was introduced.
In 1974, the National Blood Policy was developed to assure a safe and adequate blood supply. The policy encouraged “regionalization” of the blood supply, utilizing the community blood center as a model. It also phased out the paid donor system and established a private-sector group, called the American Blood Commission, to oversee activities in blood collection. This Commission held a unique position as a private voluntary association charged with implementing public policy.
At ImpactLife, significant policy changes include elimination of the Family Plan and replacement fees for blood. Mobile operations were also initiated, with the John Deere Foundry sponsoring the first drive in 1975. ImpactLife moved to a headquarters facility on Locust Street in Davenport in 1976, providing the new organization with sufficient space to accommodate growth in the coming years.
The 1980s brought new challenges for blood centers nationwide as the industry addressed the AIDS crisis. New donor screening measures and testing for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus were instituted. Meanwhile, media reports on cases of HIV transmission by blood transfusion contributed to public fears and misconceptions about the possibility of contracting HIV by giving blood.
Fear of AIDS caused a reduction in donations and started a downward trend in blood usage. The FDA increasingly began to set policy, and the American Blood Commission lost its authority and influence amidst the AIDS crisis. Additionally, lawsuits began to expose weaknesses in protection from strict liability, and the blood banking industry found itself in a firestorm of criticism, accusations of negligence, and profiteering at the expense of patients.
During this decade, ImpactLife began blood collection automation, with the introduction of apheresis technology to collect platelets and plasma, but temporarily discontinued the practice in 1982 because of cost constraints. In 1983, ImpactLife had an incident in which bacterial contamination was found in units of blood. This led to a full investigation by the FDA and significant changes in quality control processes.
Resource sharing, or the shipment of excess product to other communities in need, grew in the 1980’s and quickly became a source of operating revenue for the organization. Additionally, MVRBC expanded its hospital base and opened fixed site donor centers in Muscatine and Burlington, Iowa. As a result of these growth pressures, the headquarters facility at Locust Street was expanded.
Although many in the blood banking community thought that the 1980’s would be the peak of change, the 1990’s ushered in an unprecedented pace of change, fueled by continued regulatory pressure, increasing competitive concerns, and technology innovations.
After celebrating its 25th year in 1999, ImpactLife entered a period of unprecedented growth in which ImpactLife tripled its whole blood collections and increased its number of service hospitals from 12 to 74. Since then, there has been a period of consolidation among community blood centers as they continue to seek economies of scale made possible by increasing the number of units going through their infectious disease testing and production laboratories. As the nation continues to debate the future of its health care delivery system, ImpactLife is positioned for greater efficiency and long-term viability.
In 2012, ImpactLife laid the groundwork for an iron replacement study. This is a multi-center trial to establish a safe and effective way to maintain the iron level of frequent blood donors. It is a sensible thing to do as whole blood donations contain iron, which the body must replenish between donations.
This trial, along with our popular flu-shot program, can be another way for ImpactLife to contribute to the local donor community. Blood utilization management/conservation is taking root in medical communities. This effort is based on well-designed and powerful studies that show lowering the transfusion threshold is a safe practice and possibly results in superior outcomes. ImpactLife has been at the forefront of this issue and continues to provide blood utilization audits for their service hospitals. Current data shows the use of red blood cells (RBCs) is trending down, but this presents a fiscal challenge to blood centers as operating expenses are in many ways fixed costs and do not decrease at the same rate as RBC use.
In the immediate aftermath of the April 15, 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, blood supplies at Boston-area hospitals ran low as injured victims were rushed to nearby hospitals for emergency treatment. This led to a temporary shortage in Boston, but ImpactLife joined other blood centers across the country in providing additional units of blood to help stabilize the local supply. On the day of the bombing, ImpactLife's product management and distribution staff shipped 120 units of blood to Boston. For donors and groups that host mobile blood drives, this is a reminder that blood donation can be the difference between life and death in a time of crisis and that maintaining a stable supply of blood is an important part of disaster preparedness.
In 2014, ImpactLife opened a new laboratory, distribution hub and administration center to support its Springfield-based operations. This year also marked 40 years of connecting volunteer blood donor with patients in need.
Even in a period of significant and rapid change, one priority remains constant: our commitment to providing a safe and reliable blood supply for the patients, hospitals, and communities we serve.
In recent years, our industry has responded to a decline in the overall rate of blood utilization. While type-specific shortages are still an issue at certain times of year, we have been impacted by a decrease in overall demand for blood components. We joined colleagues across the country in looking for signs that product utilization trends will stabilize and are poised to respond quickly when (not if) such a rebound occurs.
2017 was an extraordinary year for awareness of the importance of blood donation, both within our service region and nationally. Hurricane hit Texas, Louisiana, and Florida and a there was a tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas.
In 2018, the Corporate Values for organization were enacted which are that you will find people of great character whose competency and communication make for highly capable teams. Every day, we are privileged to see great collaboration by our teams and the individual commitment of our employees to the Blood Center’s mission.
2019 was a year of significant growth including the addition of 24 new to our list of service hospitals to total 115 hospitals. Through this expansion, we filled a gap in our service region by adding multiple communities in central Illinois and we expanded to the north and south with new service hospitals in Wisconsin and the St. Louis region. To support our growth, we opened facilities in Peoria, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin and purchased a building in Earth City, Missouri, now remodeled for our Donor Services, Donor Relations, Reference Laboratory, and Inventory Management and Distribution teams.
In 2020, the disaster plan was activated due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Blood centers across the nation responded to almost daily changes to the blood supply and implemented collection of Convalescent Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat those still fighting the infection.
As ImpactLife looks to the future, we will move forward as it always has: remembering that patient care and hospital service is the basis for all we do, and working together with volunteer donors to provide a life-saving resource for communities in need.