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Rapid Cost Increases for Blood Products Cause Clinical Pathology Labs to Seek Solutions

Innovative hospital labs are creating collaborative project teams to help clinicians improve their utilization of blood products


If there is a guaranteed budget buster for clinical pathology laboratories in the United States, it is the steady and rapid growth in the cost of blood products. Some hospital laboratories report that the basic cost of blood products has doubled in recent years!

For this reason, transfusion medicine and blood banking functions are now a high-profile target for cost-cutting and aggressive management by pathologists and clinical laboratory managers. “The issues are familiar to all hospital laboratories,” stated Timothy Hannon, M.D., MBA , who is an anesthesiologist and President of Strategic Healthcare Group, LLC, in Indianapolis, Indiana. “The dramatic upward spiral of price increases for blood products in recent years is a major problem for hospital laboratories.

Some hospital laboratories report that the basic cost of blood products has doubled in recent years

“Unfortunately, experts warn that ever-larger price increases for units of blood are coming,” continued Hannon. “But that’s only part of the story. Don’t forget the other costs associated with transfusion medicine and the hospital’s blood bank functions. There are supplies and test kits, labor, and managing both the department and the administration of blood products. Collectively, these expenses add four-fold to the basic cost of blood, and these costs are also climbing every year and are putting laboratory budgets under great stress.”

Hannon observes that, even as the basic cost of operating the blood bank climbs steadily, pathologists and clinical laboratory administrators have other thorny issues confronting them. “Greater attention is being paid to patient safety in transfusion therapy,” he noted. ‘Related to this is the need for more effective risk management and attention to medical-legal liability issues associated with transfusion therapy.

“For example, as most blood bankers know, new evidence about transfusion therapy suggests that the risks of transfusion have been underestimated and the benefits overestimated,” explained Hannon. “This reframes long-standing clinical practices in the use of blood products because there is now a different risk-benefit equation for decisions to transfuse blood. This evolution in clinical practice is reflected both in the current literature and in the new blood management performance measures issued by The Joint Commission.”

For all of these reasons, a growing number of hospital laboratories are establishing special programs to control the cost of transfusion services and blood banking. However, these efforts go beyond obvious steps to manage costs. “Laboratory professionals responsible for supporting transfusion services know that reducing the cost of purchasing the products is only part of the solution,” offered Hannon. “There must be an equally effective effort to manage appropriate utilization of blood products. This means engaging the physicians to educate them about new clinical knowledge relating to use of blood products, as well as better management of patients at risk of transfusions.”

In his own hospital, St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital, in Indianapolis, as director of the hospital’s blood management program, Hannon quarterbacked a comprehensive effort to manage the costs of transfusion services and blood banking. “In 2001, we introduced an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to blood utilization,” he stated. “The goal was to promote the safe and optimal use of blood and its associated resources, to the blood bank staff in the laboratory, to physicians, and to hospital administration.

Hannon says that the blood management has delivered substantial savings in blood product costs, even as patient safety and quality outcomes improved. “Since its inception, the St. Vincent blood management program has reduced the number of hospital transfusions by over 30%,” noted Hannon. “On an annual basis, this 750-bed hospital uses 7,000 fewer units of blood products annually and the annual cost savings are now greater than $4 million. All this has happened because of interdisciplinary collaboration on better utilization of blood products.”

To share the lessons learned about better utilization of blood products, The Dark Report is conducting a special audio conference titled “Transfusion & Blood Management: Practical Advice on How to Save Blood, Save Dollars and Save Lives.” It will take place on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Hannon will provide a step-by-step roadmap on how to establish and sustain an effective blood management program in your hospital or health system.

To provide a real-life case study on effective strategies for blood product management in hospitals, Marisa B. Marques, M.D., Professor of Pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital , will discuss the collaborative approach to blood product management at this 908-bed hospital. Marques, who is Medical Director of the Transfusion Service, will discuss how this effort helped the hospital reduce use of blood products use by 29% in just 36 months. She will explain how the collaborative program with physicians at the hospital generated savings of $3.5 million during this same time.

This unique learning session is ideal for anyone with responsibility for blood products and transfusion services, including hospital/health system administrators, clinical laboratory directors, blood bank supervisors, and medical directors—as well as anyone interested in promoting safe and effective blood utilization practices.

Register for this audio conference on May 19 and get an inside look at how two of the nation’s larger hospitals have tamed the high cost of cost of blood products while improving patient care. This comprehensive session promises to equip you with the know-how, the statistics, and the case study examples you need to duplicate these accomplishments in your own hospital.

Best of all, this is a multidisciplinary approach, which is the secret to gaining the cooperation and full support of physicians, nurses, administration, and the clinical laboratory. You’ll get the knowledge and the confidence you need to improve the quality, patient safety, and stewardship of your hospital/ health system’s blood supply!

Related Information:

May 19th Audio Conference Details and Registration

The Dark Report laboratory intelligence website

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