Data analysis and other policies can help reduce blood utilization, enabling hospital systems to save money and helping them increase patient safety by reducing the likelihood of complications.

A study by Premier, a group purchasing organization, found that analytics and other blood use policies had a significant impact on blood transfusions and other types of blood use.

Leigh Anderson
Leigh Anderson

The potential for savings across the industry could be sizable, Premier estimates. It says that one unit of blood can cost as much as $1,000, including overhead expenses and transportation costs.

In addition, blood transfusions put patients at risk for bacterial contamination, circulatory overloads, infections, reactions and increased mortality rates. These risks ultimately lead to readmission to hospitals and associated costs to healthcare systems.

Premier conducted a nationwide analysis of 645 hospitals and found a 20 percent decrease in blood utilization across 134 diagnoses that account for 80 percent of red blood cell use. Premier executives said the analysis illustrates the strength of having comparative data analytics to drive performance improvement.

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Premier conducted the analysis using inpatient data on more than 27 million discharges from 2011 through the first half of 2016. Significant decreases in blood use were a direct result of provider efforts to optimize care by improving stewardship through the use of evidence-based practices around blood use. Using cost and quality data analytics, Premier produces regular optimization reports that help providers spot cost and quality variations in blood use, as well as the sources or departments that are contributing to the problem, so that leaders can target efforts designed improve the overall cost and quality of patient care.

Premier cited examples of savings achieved at specific organizations. For example, Cincinnati-based Mercy Health, an integrated delivery system, reported $6.2 million in savings for 2015. Mercy Health achieved the savings as a result of conserving red blood cell, platelet, plasma and cryo use (70 percent of the savings resulted from reducing blood use). The savings reflects conservation efforts in both inpatient and outpatient facilities over a three-year period.Availability and transparency of data was crucial for success and sustainability of the program, requiring the use of technology and education, says Wayne Bohenek, vice president of clinical support services at Mercy Health.

“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,” said Leigh Anderson, Premier’s chief information officer.

Information technology is a key achieving positive results, he noted. “Managing blood use can be a challenge without strong data and analytics to measure total utilization rates, compare against peer benchmarks and spot areas for improvement. Leveraging our data to pinpoint opportunity areas, this analysis proves that with consistent data and measurement, providers can greatly enhance their blood stewardship.”

Blood transfusions are often needed in cardiac surgery, orthopedic surgery, and in treating trauma and chronic medical conditions. In the top 10 procedures and diagnoses that use the most blood, Premier assessed that there was a 40 percent decline in blood use through its program. Premier also reported that for joint replacement, they’ve seen almost 75 percent fewer cases requesting blood transfusions, and 30 percent fewer patients undergoing hip and femur surgeries received blood transfusions.

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Brookie Madison

Brookie Madison

Madison is an intern at Employee Benefit Adviser through the Dow Jones News Fund Business Reporting program. She is a recent graduate of Howard University where she majored in broadcast journalism, with a minor in psychology.