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Hospitals Overspending on Blood Transfusions

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, October 9, 2012

Because each surgeon had a different set of protocols, there was a wide variation in the volume, thresholds, and frequency of use of blood from one surgeon to the next, says Marlon Priest, MD, the system's executive vice president and chief medical officer.

Why do doctors specializing in heart surgery all work under different rules?

"We trained at various periods of time. We all have our own practices and local facilities all have their own cultures," Priest says. "By creating a conversation among the five programs, we can step back and ask the question: Why is my blood utilization different than yours for the same type of patient?' "

"So we asked our physicians who took care of these patients to make a difference in the best interests of the patient," he says. "We said, let's look at data and outcomes and see if we can't find what's in the literature to use this precious commodity better.

After four years of implementing best practices in transfusion medicine, Priest says, Bon Secours' surgeons were able to reduce the need for blood from an average of 6.2 units per heart surgery patient to 2.2 units. Since each unit costs about $1,100 to administer, that's an average saving of $4,400 per patient.

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