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Michigan Coalition Successfully Reduces Unnecessary Blood Transfusions

Although blood transfusions are considered to be insignificant, and done without much forethought, the procedure is not without potential risk.

“Blood transfusions are associated with infections, allergic reactions, lung injury, as well as potential for long-term complications, such as heart attack or kidney failure,” said Sarah Lanivich, senior health care analyst, Value Partnerships. “They also are costly and associated with longer hospital stays. While some blood transfusions are medically necessary, others are not.”

Thanks to the hard work of three Blue Cross Collaborative Quality Initiatives (CQIs), 45,000 Michigan patients have avoided a transfusion in the last few years.

And in a related success, Michigan’s transfusion rates continue to be lower than the national rates for heart surgery, knee and hip replacement, and vascular surgery.

  • The 2015 national blood transfusion rate for hip replacement was 18 percent and knee replacement was 11 percent. The overall Michigan Arthroplasty Registry Collaborative Quality Initiative (MARCQI) was just 1.6 percent for both types of procedures. Because of MARCQI’s efforts, 32,870 patients avoided a blood transfusion between 2015 and 2017.
  • The 2017 national rate for blood transfusions for cardiovascular surgery was 34.8 percent, while the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons (MSTCVS) rate was 30.5 percent. 8,391 patients avoided a blood transfusion between 2008 and 2017.
  • The Cardiovascular Consortium (BMC2) helped 2,611 angioplasty patients and 1,071 vascular surgery patients avoid blood transfusions between 2008 to 2015, achieving a 41.3 percent reduction in blood transfusions for angioplasty procedures and undercutting the national transfusion rate for vascular surgery between 2005 to 2013 by 11.7 percent.

The cost of blood transfusions varies depending on where you live, how much blood you need and the type of procedure the transfusion is related to. The Yale Global Health Review estimates that one unit of blood costs about $210, which could put the cost of blood for major surgery such as an organ transplant near $4,000.

CQIs are part of Blue Cross’ Value Partnerships program. CQIs collect, share and analyze data, then design and implement changes to improve patient care.

For more information, visit Value Partnerships.

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