Volume 37 Number 6 | December 2023

Yanhuan (Grace) Renn, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Ascending Professionals Forum Member

Yanhuan (Grace) RennPatient safety is a central pillar of effective healthcare delivery. The stakes are particularly high in transfusion medicine, where the urgent demand for our products and services is often made in high-pressure situations. To ensure we can meet these demands while upholding the highest standards of safety, our department has adopted a strategy centered around three core principles: connect, communicate, and collaborate.

My team’s approach goes beyond the immediate demands of the moment; it is fundamentally about establishing a robust framework for long-term planning and cooperation with our clinical partners. These interconnected allies encompass a diverse range of teams, including trauma teams, floor nursing staff, blood suppliers, and sister medical centers. To provide a tangible demonstration of how these principles are implemented in practice, let us delve into the specifics of a recent platelet inventory optimization project.

The delicate balance associated with maintaining an adequate supply of platelet units while minimizing waste due to their inherently short shelf life is an ongoing struggle in the transfusion medicine community. Platelets are a critical resource required at a moment’s notice in various critical situations, spanning from trauma care to cancer treatment and surgeries. Often, platelet product requests arise unexpectedly, introducing an element of unpredictability that frequently culminates in both shortages and excessive inventory levels. Medical centers and hospitals end up expending funds on discarded units as well as paying stat delivery fees, a double financial burden.

Our journey towards a solution began after experiencing a surge in platelet usage that resulted in the depletion of our on-site inventory. In response, the trauma team proposed an increase in our par levels to counter this shortage. However, implementing this new proposal would have pushed our platelet discard rate to a staggering 50 percent. It presented us with a daunting dilemma—a seemingly insurmountable trade-off.

Rather than resigning ourselves to the apparent impasse, my team chose to broaden the scope of the conversation. By establishing connections and fostering open lines of communication with a wider network of stakeholders, we embarked on a journey to uncover a creative win-win solution. Within our organizational network, our flagship facility stepped forward to receive transfers of our expiring products, thereby significantly reducing the discard rate to less than 10 percent. This pivotal development allowed us not only to meet, but surpass, the inventory levels initially requested by the trauma team. Furthermore, this enhancement in our inventory management process eliminated the need for incurring stat delivery fees, thereby delivering substantial cost savings.

“[T]he next time you find yourself in a dilemma, ask yourself, ‘Who else should I invite to the discussion?’”

In that same vein, these established channels of communication serve as conduits for the seamless flow of critical information that underpins our day-to-day operations. Bedside healthcare providers communicate patient-specific details, including transfusion history and relevant diagnoses, empowering us to supply the precise blood products required for optimal patient care. Meanwhile, our department reciprocates by sharing essential data, encompassing crossmatch status and potential delays, which, in turn, assists healthcare providers in formulating the most appropriate care plans.

Collaboration stands as the very heart of our strategic approach, characterized by our close partnership with a diverse assembly of professionals both within and beyond our organization’s boundaries. Within the elaborate tapestry of healthcare, medical laboratory professionals assume the role of silent sentinels dedicated to upholding patient safety. Our unwavering commitment to the pursuit of continuous quality improvement propels us to undertake rigorous analyses of adverse events, disseminate vital data, and implement measures designed to enhance the safety and efficacy of our services.

Emerging research consistently underscores the manifold benefits of a collaborative team approach in healthcare, manifesting as tangible enhancements in the quality of patient care, shortened hospital stays, reduced care costs, and a decrease in medical errors.1 These findings herald promising prospects for our patients. To capitalize on this synergy, there must be an intentional commitment to a path of continuous improvement.

As the old adage goes, “Many hands make light work.” When the right stakeholders come together, better ideas emerge. Recognizing the complexity of our organizations, we understand that no one-size-fits-all solution exists. So, the next time you find yourself in a dilemma, ask yourself, “Who else should I invite to the discussion?” Don’t forget to keep an eye out; perhaps you hold the solution someone else is searching for.

  1. Zechariah S, Ansa BE, Johnson SW, Gates AM, Leo G. Interprofessional education and collaboration in healthcare: an exploratory study of the perspectives of medical students in the United States. Healthcare (Basel). 2019;7(4):117.

Yanhuan (Grace) Renn is the Blood Bank Supervisor for Penn State Health Medical Center in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.