Aaron Hurst takes his job very seriously.
Hurst, who’s part of laboratory quality services support at Newton Medical Center, knows even a small mistake made during a patient’s blood transfusion can have serious consequences.
“If you make a mistake in chemistry, the patient will survive,” he said. “If you make a mistake in blood banking, the patient will die. ... You can’t make those mistakes.”
Hurst has helped develop a paperless blood banking system at Newton Medical Center — a system that has reduced the possibility of error to almost zero.
“We’re really excited about it,” Robetta Trapp, area director, diagnostic services with Newton Medical Center, said of the system. “We’re committed to it.”
What is a blood bank?
Trapp said a “blood bank” is basically a sophisticated refrigerator used to store blood for use in transfusions. “Blood banking” refers to the process of collecting and handling the blood for transfusions.
Newton Medical Center’s “paperless blood bank” is an electronic version of documentation for blood banking.
About 120 to 150 transfusions are performed at Newton
Medical Center each month. Trapp said blood transfusion is a procedure with a certain level of risk, since transplant tissue is being introduced into a person’s body. A person’s vital signs are checked on a regular basis to ensure there is no adverse response to the transfusion.
“The high level of safety is important,” Trapp said. “... An error in blood banking can be very serious, even fatal.”
There used to be an elaborate system of paper documentation involved with a blood transfusion. Two nurses would have to stand by the patient’s bed and read back information, such as the patient’s blood type, verifying everything was right.
Although transfusion nurses took their jobs very seriously, Trapp said there still were opportunities for human error. Nurses might look at the data while comparing it and accidentally transpose some of the numbers in their mind, causing them to misinterpret the data.
Now, thanks to the electronic system, health-care workers can scan a patient’s wristband and scan the blood unit, and the computer will check to make sure the data matches up.
“There’s no mistakes,” Trapp said. “... The paperless blood bank automates those thought processes.”
The electronic system has helped to reduce the number of opportunities for critical error per patient unit of blood from 164 to four.
“This is huge,” Trapp said.
The electronic system also is able to immediately alert a nurse during the transfusion process if something starts to go wrong.
The system of paper documentation for blood transfusions has been around since the 1940s, and it’s still a commonly used system.
Page 2 of 2 - Trapp and Hurst said Newton Medical Center’s paperless blood bank was cutting edge when it was developed, the only such system they were aware of in this region.
Hurst also said Newton Medical Center continues to be ahead of the game. They were invited to give a presentation about the system at a statewide meeting for laboratory professionals and blood bank personnel in May in Wichita.
Hurst and Trapp plan to continue working on the program in the future and hope that others will be able to use the technology to improve patient care.
For more information about Newton Medical Center, call 283-2700 or visit www.newtonmedicalcenter.com.