Inside BloodNet: Australia's real-time blood database

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Inside BloodNet: Australia's real-time blood database

One national system tracks the country's critical blood stores.

Australia's National Blood Authority has created a single interface linking up information systems used in hospitals and pathology labs across the country to provide a real-time view of the nation's blood stores, which has seen it cut blood wastage by $10 million annually.

The project has been two years in the making. It surfaced from a drive to enable better management and visibility of the national blood supply and therefore reduce wastage, which is currently estimated to cost the country $30 million each year.

The authority also hoped the platform would allow the NBA and labs to better respond to emergencies - like the 2008 blood shortage that caused elective surgery in Australia to shut down for a week.

To get such a significant undertaking up and running, the authority first needed to develop a system that could handle the automated receipt and processing of real-time feeds from each laboratory's information system.

It had to be able to grab and share information on the available inventory and the state of each unit of fresh blood (whether it is about to be transfused to a patient or transferred to another lab, discarded, or whether it was available stock).

The interface also needed to be able to work with the IT systems of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

After the authority created and built a specification for the interface APIs and SOAP calls, it then started work on enabling the data to be used and displayed for lab and NBA staff  - a task that meant one-third of the initial BloodNet source code was either changed or replaced.

Dashboards were then rolled out within the system interface, displaying real-time data from BloodNet to staff in labs piloting the system. The dashboards could be used by staff to better manage their orders and deliveries, and to quickly identify blood units that were in short stock in their fridge.

A smaller number of labs also received 55-inch monitors and media players to run the dashboards to test whether a public display was more effective than switching screens within BloodNet; the tests showed it was.

At the moment, 170 laboratories - equal to 24 percent of the national blood supply - are hooked into BloodNet.

The authority expects that by the end of June this year, that number will rise to 50 percent, with more than 75 percent of the country's laboratories on board by the end of this year.

"This technology is the only one of its kind in the international blood sector – no other country has developed and implemented an automated technology solution that collates and reports on the blood stocks of all hospitals (both public and private) across their country," NBA CIO Peter O'Halloran told iTnews.

"Within the Australian health sector, this project is also unique in that there is no equivalent system that captures the real-time inventory level and final disposition of each unit in an automated manner.

"Such data is either not collected, or collected in a limited manner only many months after the fact in clinical registries – none of which are useful in managing crises in real-time."

The team was given $1.1 million to get the interfaces between the NBA and lab systems up and running, and will need a further $1.8 million funding to complete a full rollout, which would also include physical monitors for hospital labs to display the dashboard.

O'Halloran and the NBA are finalists in the Healthcare category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt on February 17.

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