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By Sarah Virgil

Many health systems already understand that utilization programs are important for delivering high-value care and controlling costs. The evidence is covered frequently in articles and studies about the waste in transfusion programs and the increased cost and risks associated with unnecessary testing.

Despite all the data supporting utilization programs, health systems must first understand their own test and blood utilization data before they can begin to change their practices. Gathering, organizing, and analyzing utilization data can be extremely eye-opening for health system executives, and is instrumental in building a case to garner internal support for utilization initiatives.

In a recent webinar, Dennis Spender, M.D., Medical Director of the McLaren Medical Laboratory, which is part of the McLaren Health Care integrated health system in Michigan, discussed his organization’s blood and test utilization programs.

He suggests that all utilization programs begin by recognizing whether or not an issue is present and the magnitude of the problem.

“You can’t fix something if you can’t measure it,” said Dr. Spender.

Dr. Spender urges utilization managers to stay high level with the data that’s generated and shared. If data is too granular, it can be difficult for stakeholders to understand. Worse yet, providers could feel they are being singled out by the data. He suggests instead zeroing in on which tests are being ordered and the volume by hospital system or department. This will be the beginning of fruitful conversations about why certain tests are ordered and if there’s a better process. In other words, keeping data at a high level enables health systems to turn data in achievable objectives that can be measured.

Dr. Spender also recommends setting up a utilization steering committee comprised of system executives, medical lab directors and providers. This group will bring different perspectives on issues, and can make decisions to prioritize goals.

For more information on how to gather the data needed to support a utilization program, listen to the webinar or download A Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Test & Blood Utilization.

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