Red Cross, Regions partner to reduce unnecessary blood transfusions

September 20, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn.  — An initiative at Regions Hospital and supported by the American Red Cross is preventing red blood cell transfusions for patients who don’t need them and ensuring that patients who do need one get the right dose at the right time. Since these blood use strategies were implemented in 2011, the average amount of blood transfused, excluding trauma cases, has decreased by 94 units per month, or 14 percent.

Blood transfusions save lives. But growing research shows that transfusions temporarily suppress the immune system and can increase medical complications. A report released earlier this year by the American Medical Association and The Joint Commission called out appropriate blood management as one of five strategies to address overuse in medicine while improving quality and patient safety.

With the American Red Cross, Regions Hospital’s pathology department developed a decision-support tool for its electronic medical record. The tool is designed to improve the appropriate use of red blood cells based on the latest evidence-based clinical guidelines.

“We are successfully changing the thinking behind transfusions,” said Amar Subraminian, MD, an informatics pathologist at Regions Hospital. “A blood transfusion is like a liquid transplant, and even under ideal conditions, it’s not as good as someone’s own blood.”

As part of this work, Regions Hospital reduced the point at which doctors initiate a transfusion, called the hemoglobin trigger, to less than 7 g/dl in stable patients. The decision-support tool automatically alerts physicians if a patient’s most recent hemoglobin levels are above that and also cautions against administering more than one unit of blood at a time.

“We are grateful for the partnership with Regions to help improve patient outcomes and reduce costs with better blood utilization management,” said David Mair, chief medical director, Mid-America Division of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross will continue to work with Region’s to provide education and strategize on implementing good blood utilization management programs because it is definitely the right thing to do for patients.”

A 2012 analysis of blood use at 464 hospitals determined that if all hospitals adopted these evidence-based best practices for use, it could save the health care system more than 802,000 units of blood and $165 million in costs without a decline in patient outcomes.

American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Regions Hospital
Regions Hospital is a Level I Trauma Center for adults and for children serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin for more than 140 years. A private, nonprofit, teaching hospital, Regions ( provides outstanding care in women’s health, heart, cancer, surgery, orthopedics, neuroscience, burn, emergency care, mental illnesses and more. Regions is part of the HealthPartners ( family of health care companies that serves 1.4 million medical and dental health plan members nationwide. Follow Regions Hospital at and