"The years around the turn of the millennium were the golden years of cooperation between the Blood Service and hospital blood transfusions. Every year, the Blood Service would invite us doctors to consulting physicians' theme days to meet physicians from other hospitals and experts from the Blood Service. They would tell us about the latest developments and products in the field and we would present the views of the hospitals.
Quality awareness was increasing in hospitals and they were obviously already experts in quality at the Blood Service. This decade also saw new legislation introduced to blood transfusions. It required, for example, blood safety measures that included accurate reporting of all adverse effects of blood transfusions. It taught us better ways of doing things.
In Finland, infections were not really transferred through blood products, although AIDS and mad cow disease were making the headlines. The Blood Service was well informed on these matters and began to immediately and systematically run all the recommended tests. In hospitals, we were able to convince patients that everything was carried out in the best possible way in Finland. Finland also has the world's most reliable blood donors".
"Good cooperation was particularly evident in the project that ended in 2007 and was aimed at the optimal use of blood products. Hospitals were ensuring that patients were given the right amount of the required blood product with the correct indications and at the right time.
The cooperation was very concrete. For example, orthopaedists from different hospitals would sit down at the same table and discuss the best blood transfusion practices for artificial hip operations. Eventually, coherent, optimal blood transfusion practices were achieved. The Blood Service took the initiative here, getting all the medical experts together.
During the same decade, the use of blood products began to decrease. This was, in particular, thanks to the development of technologies and operational treatment methods. For example, surgical bleeding is rare today. Unfortunately, this resulted in the gradual closing down of regional Blood Service offices. The production of all blood products was based in Helsinki, with the Blood Service providing services to hospitals around the clock. With good cooperation, we have made this work, but, in terms of logistics, Finland is a challenging country".
Better patient safety
"Among the milestones of the decade was the automation of analytics in hospital blood centres and the overall development of the blood supply chain. As late as the 1990s, a lot of the work in blood centres was performed manually, but soon all operations were automated and managed by integrated data systems. This meant that the Blood Service began to replenish the stock at hospital blood centres automatically according to needs.
Patient safety was further improved as the risk of human error decreased. They also discontinued suitability testing in certain blood transfusions, as more comprehensive screening methods were adopted for blood group antibodies.
I must say that the system of consulting physicians was good for discussions. We worked together to make things right. During this decade, we also managed to achieve the exclusion of white blood cells from blood products. In 2007, we began to use Octaplas, a safer product, as it is produced from a single donor's fresh frozen plasma.
The decade was marked by the way in which all information was openly shared. We all looked forward to the consulting physicians' theme days and made many life-long friends.
Text: Minna Kalajoki / Mediafocus
Photos: Matti Rajala