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Sentara Reduces Blood Transfusions by 6,600 Across 12 Hospitals

'Less is more' protocol enhances patient safety, avoids potential complications


Blood transfusion can be a life-saving protocol for critically ill patients and victims of trauma. It can also cause complications and immune system confusion that may threaten patients’ lives. A growing body of evidence shows that hospitals transfuse too many patients with too much blood too often. Think of transfusion as a small organ transplant with its potential complications and you change the mindset about routinely ordering red blood cells after surgery or for complex conditions.


There’s a movement in medicine to make transfusion a therapy of last resort and reduce the chances for hospital acquired infections and complications. Hospitals adopting the less-is-more approach use a Patient Blood Management (PBM) model to adopt new clinical guidelines, educate providers and measure success against pre-set goals. Sentara Healthcare embraced the PBM model in 2019 and engaged a healthcare performance partner called Acumen to reduce transfusions by more than 6,600 across 12 hospitals from July to December. This 15% reduction from 2018 prevented an estimated 265 medical complications for patients.


To achieve this rapid change, Sentara used its existing High Performance Team (HPT) structure, which is designed to quickly deploy emerging best practices across the system. 


The Sentara PBM system team is chaired by H. Raymond Tahhan, MD, a pathologist, who is medical director for transfusion services at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. His team recruited more than 50 clinical champions who helped set performance goals. Those champions made hundreds of presentations to hospital clinical teams and conducted four system seminars offering Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits to boost participation by providers.