Hospitals make strides in optimizing blood use

Hospital entance
Two new studies found that hospitals are seeing success in reducing blood use. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Hospitals are taking steps to optimize blood use without sacrificing care quality, according to two new studies. And providers could reap big savings for doing so. 

Premier examined blood utilization data from 645 hospitals recorded between 2011 and 2016, accounting for more than 27 million discharges. It found a 20% average decrease in blood utilization across those hospitals, including a 75% reduction in transfusions for joint replacement procedures.

Blood transfusions are expensive, costing upward of $1,000 per unit, and when used unnecessarily can lead to adverse patient effects, like allergic reactions, fever and iron overload. In 2012, Premier conducted an analysis aimed at identifying ways for its members to reduce blood overuse without compromising the quality of patient care.

Premier member hospitals also reported significant cost savings, according to the report. Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois generated $2 million in savings, and Mercy Health in Cincinnatti saved $6.2 million conserving red blood cell, platelets and plasma use. BayCare Health System in Tampa, Florida, by reducing blood use by 54%, saved 58,000 units.

A team at University of California San Diego Health also conducted research into the cost savings associated with reducing blood use and found that interventions aimed at reducing unneeded transfusions saved the hospital $1 million a year, according to a study published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

Premier found that hospitals in the study have significantly reduced blood use in the 10 procedures that use the most, reporting a 40% decrease in patients receiving blood transfusions for those procedures between 2012 and 2016.

“Today’s healthcare providers face constant pressures to improve quality and reduce total costs. Given this reality, more providers are looking to optimize blood use, a very expensive resource that can lead to adverse events if not properly managed,” Leigh Anderson, Premier’s chief information officer, said in an announcement.

RELATED: Outpatient care access, innovative ways to cut costs are top hospital CEO concerns

The UC San Diego study's authors created a multidisciplinary team to review literature and develop interventions the hospital could use to reduce its blood use. Solutions included offering real-time clinical decision support and enhancing the provider order entry system.

Overall, the researchers found that the rate of red blood cell transfusions per 1,000 patient days decreased from 89.8% to 78.1% during the study to 72.1% following the interventions.