Improved blood utilization using real-time clinical decision support




We analyzed blood utilization at Stanford Hospital and Clinics after implementing real-time clinical decision support (CDS) and best practice alerts (BPAs) into physician order entry (POE) for blood transfusions.

Study Design and Methods

A clinical effectiveness (CE) team developed consensus with a suggested transfusion threshold of a hemoglobin (Hb) level of 7 g/dL, or 8 g/dL for patients with acute coronary syndromes. The CDS was implemented in July 2010 and consisted of an interruptive BPA at POE, a link to relevant literature, and an “acknowledgment reason” for the blood order.


The percentage of blood ordered for patients whose most recent Hb level exceeded 8 g/dL ranged at baseline from 57% to 66%; from the education intervention by the CE team August 2009 to July 2010, the percentage decreased to a range of 52% to 56% (p = 0.01); and after implementation of CDS and BPA, by end of December 2010 the percentage of patients transfused outside the guidelines decreased to 35% (p = 0.02) and has subsequently remained below 30%. For the most recent interval, only 27% (767 of 2890) of transfusions occurred in patients outside guidelines. Comparing 2009 to 2012, despite an increase in annual case mix index from 1.952 to 2.026, total red blood cell (RBC) transfusions decreased by 7186 units, or 24%. The estimated net savings for RBC units (at $225/unit) in purchase costs for 2012 compared to 2009 was $1,616,750.


Real-time CDS has significantly improved blood utilization. This system of concurrent review can be used by health care institutions, quality departments, and transfusion services to reduce blood transfusions.