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Quality Update - What an Idea!

Summer 2010

What an Idea!

Date: July 23, 2010

Maryland hospitals and blood suppliers work to keep blood products from being discarded before they can be given to patients.


A collaborative of Maryland acute care hospitals and regional blood suppliers has devised a solution to keep blood products from being thrown away before they must be discarded.

Working with the local chapter of the American Red Cross (ARC), the group is launching an online system that allows blood banks to quickly post when they have short-dated units that can be transferred to other hospitals. This system will be housed on the ARC website, and members will be able to troll the password-protected site when they have a pressing need for products.

This system—a sort of Craigslist for blood products—is one of the ideas to emerge from the state’s Blood Wastage Collaborative. Kicked off in September 2009, the group includes all 45 acute care hospitals with blood banks and regional blood suppliers. It is facilitated by staff from the Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care.

Life-saving blood products are discarded before use for a variety of reasons, such as expired shelf life after they have been thawed, or getting too warm after they leave the blood bank. In Maryland, monthly wastage rates for plasma have hovered around 5 to 7 percent, while 7 to 9 percent of platelets are discarded.

Hoping to reduce those rates, the collaborative members use a secure website to submit their facility’s wastage data and share best practices.

“We’re not dictating what they need to implement,” says I-Fong Sun, a coach at the Center for Innovation. “This is more about being transparent and facilitating conversations between the experts.” Simply by drawing greater attention to the issue, measuring waste and feeding back the statistics to members, they hope to gain traction.

The initial results are encouraging: Through April, the hospitals had saved about $116,000 in plasma, platelets and red blood cells.

The collaborative is a project undertaken through the state’s Health Care Quality and Cost Council, which was created through an executive order to focus priorities for improving health care in Maryland.

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