Electronic blood management systems

Topic Status Complete

Electronic blood management systems for blood transfusions

Outcome of the appraisal


The evidence supports the routine adoption of electronic blood management systems (EBMS) to support blood transfusions.
Compared with paper-based systems, EBMS reduces rates of sample rejection and blood wastage.
A cost analysis estimates that the use of EBMS would lead to cost savings of £0.32 per person receiving a blood transfusion in the first year and £19.92 per person in subsequent years compared with a paper-based system. If applied to all people receiving blood transfusions in NHS Wales, it is estimated that there would be savings of £1.9 million over a two year period.

Why was this topic appraised?


Blood transfusion is a process whereby blood components (red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, clotting factors, or platelets) are given intravenously to a patient. Errors in this process (misidentification of a patient, their blood sample, or the blood component intended for them) pose significant risks to patients and in cases where blood is incompatible with a patient’s blood type, can result in severe, sometimes even fatal, adverse reactions. Patient identification, and the verification of samples and blood components from/intended for the right patient, has traditionally used manual and written checks but EBMS carries out some or all of these checks
electronically instead, using unique identifiers (such as barcodes). Work has commenced on a Discovery and Scoping project to explore in greater detail how EBMS could be implemented in Wales.

Plain language summary


Blood transfusions deliver blood directly into a person’s veins. Blood transfusions replace blood that is lost through surgery or injury. They are also used to provide blood if your body is not making blood properly. Blood for transfusions is donated from healthy donors. It is important that a person gets the right type of blood when having a blood transfusion. Transfusion of the wrong type of blood is one of the two leading causes of death from transfusion. It is therefore important to make sure that healthcare staff can correctly identify people to ensure the right blood is given to them before transfusion takes place.

Electronic blood management systems use barcodes on the patient’s wristband to confirm their identity and matches these with the details on the blood packet to ensure that the right blood is given to the right person. This process uses a handheld scanning device and a mobile printer taken to the patient’s side. The device records blood samples and blood units, which are encoded to the patient’s identity data, such as their name, blood type etc.

Health Technology Wales looked for evidence on the use of electronic blood management systems in settings where transfusions take place. The evidence shows that, compared with paper-based systems, EBMS reduces rates of blood sample rejection and blood wastage. Routine adoption of electronic blood management systems (EBMS) to support blood transfusions is recommended.

Topic Exploration Report

TER264 29.10.21

Evidence Appraisal Review

EAR039 03.2022


GUI039 03.2022


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