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Smart Blood Use at St. Luke’s: Better for Patients and the Community

Evidence-based blood management criteria has been key to improvements St. Luke's is seeing with blood use.
By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
July 30, 2013

St. Luke’s is making great progress toward our Triple Aim goals of better health, better care, and lower costs.  Transformation isn't simple; it has to happen on multiple fronts and involve all of our leaders, physicians, and employees in exploring opportunities for us to improve.

That is one of the reasons I am so proud of our blood utilization program and its results. It only came to be because of our leaders, physicians, and employees, all coming together to drive better care and reduce costs. It's yet another example of using best practices, evidence-based medicine, and collaboration with other organizations to achieve new levels of performance. Here's Sandra Wurdemann, St. Luke's Health System internal communications coordinator, with the details:

Smart use of blood products has turned out to have big Triple Aim advantages for St. Luke’s, most especially by helping us to improve care and lower costs for our community-owned health system.

In 2011, St. Luke’s facilities in Boise and Meridian adopted a blood management program with the assistance of the American Red Cross and the Strategic Healthcare Group, a national consulting firm.

In the first 18 months, the hospitals decreased costs associated with blood products by more than $1.6 million, and reduced the amount of patient blood sent to the lab by 27 percent. The consultants concluded the effort resulted in more than $11.6 million in savings and value.

The health and resource factors were both compelling reasons to look for opportunity in the area of our blood management.

For some patients, blood draws can lead to anemia. And blood-product purchases are a significant cost for St. Luke’s Health System.

St. Luke’s is now expanding the blood management program to its other regional hospitals, and will introduce blood management into its orientation program for new physicians and nurses.

“The standard of care for blood utilization has markedly changed over the years, and it is important that all clinical providers are delivering a consistent and evidence-based level of care,” said Dr. Barton Hill, St. Luke’s Health System vice president and chief quality officer.

Related improved processes included:

  • Evidence-based transfusion ordering practices for neonatal, pediatric, and adult blood products. Dr. Scott Snyder, a neonatologist and our medical director of neonatology for St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, had already developed standardized order sets for neonatology and was able to use this platform for order sets with adult and pediatric populations. He led a multidisciplinary group of physicians from high-blood-use service lines to adopt current evidence-based transfusion criteria.
  • An increase in the use of single-unit red blood cell transfusions for non-hemorrhaging anemic patients. To date, St. Luke’s has almost reached its goal of 60 percent single unit transfusions.
Read the full report: blood case study

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.