Centralized blood bank creates trail of data for HHC

Boasting 11 hospitals, New York City-based Health and Hospitals Corporation has a lot of blood banks--and with those banks comes a lot of data. According to Louis Capponi, HHC chief medical informatics officer, the health system is using technology to leverage that data for better blood flow and better patient care.

A centralized blood bank with data from all 11 hospitals allows HHC to look at differences across its system and identify which facilities may be using more or less blood than optimal, Capponi told FierceHealthIT in an exclusive interview. Clinicians, he says, are learning from the availability of data, education and practice guidelines and adjusting blood level based on evidence.

"It's showing us the power and capabilities of having all this information in one place," Capponi said.

Capponi said that the centralized bank allows each facility to retroactively check if they are, in fact, transfusing blood at the same rates of other facilities, and if not, addressing the problem locally with staff.

"If you don't have access to the data, you don't know if you're transfusing at the right levels," Capponi said. "[With the blood bank], staff can go back and talk at the local level and focus on specific services."

Additionally, Capponi said, the blood bank affords HHC the opportunity to do much more secondary data examination.

"Now that we have all that data, we can use it to improve care," he said. "We've been doing that for many years, but we're getting at issues we couldn't get at years ago. It's a very rich environment for joint learning and improving the entire corporation."

As FierceHealthIT reported yesterday, HHC sees 1 million emergency department visits per year, and has significant challenges to serve its underinsured and uninsured population. Technology is playing a role in reducing readmissions, better organizing the emergency department and taking advantage of telehealth.

"That's one thing that drove me to this job--the only way we can improve is with reliable information," Capponi said. "One of the pleasures of seeing real examples is how we leverage it as a system."

Technology in the form of a digital whiteboard system is helping the ED departments keep track of everyone coming in, Capponi said. He added that more than 90 percent of HHC's admissions come through the ED, meaning it's vital to be as efficient as possible.

A telehealth pilot for adolescent psychiatry consultations also recently proved to be a hit at HHC, Capponi said.

"It was very much successful and satisfactory, to the patients, the patients' families and clinicians," Capponi said. "It resulted in the avoidance of several hospitalizations, multiplied across our whole system. Only one in 10 patients wound up getting hospitalized [after the telehealth consultation]."

Capponi added that working on how to make technology safer for patient care is very exciting from an ergonomics and design perspective.

Editor's Note: This article is the second in a series about the use of technology at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. Read part one here and part two here

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