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Blood Shortages — How Can Hospitals Help?

Americas Blood Centers released a bulletin on blood shortages and how hospitals and their clinicians can help, from implementing certain transfusion and inventory management practices to encouraging and supporting blood donation. Blood donations were declining before the COVID-19 pandemic and have worsened during the pandemic due to cancellations and staffing shortages.
Key Points:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened chronic issues with nationwide blood shortages.
  • Blood donation should be encouraged and actively supported.
  • Transfusion service laboratories should have standard operating procedures (SOPs) for management of blood component shortages
Blood centers have been faced with decreased blood donation levels throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Chronic blood shortages have resulted from blood drive cancellations, blood center staffing shortages, and dramatic increases in no-show rates of scheduled blood donors due to COVID-19 infection, exposure, and social distancing recommendations. A critically low inventory level has potentially significant consequences for patient care. Blood collection establishments anticipate future challenges with the blood supply as the total number of donors presenting to donate has declined (7.1 percent decrease from 2017 to 2019 preceding the pandemic), particularly among the younger donor age groups. Hospital blood banks, transfusion services, and clinicians play a critical role ensuring best management and utilization of the available blood supply. Hospitals can support blood availability by partnering with blood centers to increase blood donation through media support and hospital/community blood drives.

Topics included in the bulletin:

  • Transfusion Practices for Good Stewardship of Blood Supply
  • Transfusion Practice Adjustments during Blood Product Shortages
  • Inventory Management during Severe Shortages
  • Blood Donation Support
Hospitals and blood centers are partners in optimizing and managing blood product availability. Hospitals have a critical role in promoting evidence-based best transfusion practices and optimizing blood bank inventory. The need to implement more restrictive transfusion practice during shortages should be supported and communicated from upper management to clinicians and hospital staff. With best practices in place for good stewardship and effective strategies to adjust transfusion practice and inventory management during shortages, hospitals ensure blood is available to support patients’ transfusion needs.

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