How MD Anderson built a strong blood supply

To ensure Houston-based MD Anderson, the nation's largest transfusing hospital, has enough blood, its donor operations team pivoted to solutions such as more double red cell donations and outreach. 

Every day, the facility's patients need 200 units of red blood cells and 600 units of platelets, according to a Dec. 15 post on MD Anderson's blog "Cancerwise." 

There's been a shortage of blood donations since 2020, and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic halted public donation events. In early 2022, the Red Cross declared the first-ever national blood crisis, and the supply has wavered since then. Summer is typically a slow season for grabbing donors, with schools closed and families on vacations, but despite these ebbs and flows, MD Anderson focuses on five strategies to maintain supply: 

1. Motivate employees to donate through incentives such as an extra day of vacation for those who donate four times a year. The national average is 3 percent, but at MD Anderson, 16 percent of its employees donated blood in fiscal year 2022.

2. Work with other team members to encourage repeat donors and recruit new ones.

3. Promote double red cell donations, which achieves two doses of red blood cells in one sitting.

4. Host blood drives at various times to adapt to a workforce with more people working remotely.

5. Broaden the donor pool by waiving restrictions, including those with a history of solid tumor or skin cancer diagnosis who have completed treatment and been free of the disease for at least two years.

Despite the Red Cross' blood crisis announcement, the number of new donors at MD Anderson this year increased 30 percent compared to 2021.

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