Better Blood Use, Better Outcomes

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , March 29, 2013

Michael Handler, MD, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for 122-bed SSM St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake St. Louis, Mo., one of seven SSM network hospitals, says the facility started monitoring blood usage in 2004, specifically looking at patients and anemia in two ways.

First, he says, presurgical autologous blood donations were actually making patients anemic and more at risk of needing a blood transfusion during their surgery because they didn't have a chance to build up their own.

"We ended up wasting a lot of product," he says.

They also looked more carefully at patient blood levels prior to surgery in case they were anemic. In addition, the hospital reduced the amount of blood kept on hand because many units that had expired use dates had to be destroyed.

SSM formed a task force across the six-hospital network and focused on physicians' use of blood during cardiac, bowel, and orthopedic surgeries and gastrointestinal hemorrhage, and tried to reduce "massive transfusions."

"We look for patterns, anything that looks inappropriate," Handler says.

The bottom line, he says, is that "we've reduced our costs by 33% since 2004," from $10 for blood per patient day to $6.78, or more than $1.4 million between 2005 and 2011, "even with increases in blood product costs."

"Bargains like this don't come along every day," says the AABB's AuBuchon. "Healthcare executives have a wonderful opportunity to improve patient care and reduce their costs simultaneously" with better management of a therapy that is precious and very expensive.

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This article appears in the March 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

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