The Hidden Cost of Hemolyzed Blood Samples in the Emergency Department

Michael P. Phelan, Christopher Ramos, Laura E. Walker, Gerald Richland, Edmunds Z. Reineks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: On average, patients with hemolyzed potassium samples spend about 1 h longer in the emergency department (ED), regardless of acuity level or disposition. We aimed to quantify the direct expenses associated with poor-quality preanalytic blood samples collected in the ED. Methods: We created a simple table with a range of direct expenses (i.e., costs) and rates of hemolyzed sample draws, allowing for identification of potential high-level cost-of-care impact analysis. We included a range of costs informed by review of literature on the topic. Those costs range from $600 to $3000 per bed-hour. This amount was inflation adjusted from 1996 to 2020 (1.68 [direct cost per visit] [100 000 visits per year/365 days/24 h]). We provided a range of hemolysis incidence based on previously reported data. Results: We showed that for an ED with 100 000 annual visits, a 40% draw rate for routine chemistries (including potassium), and a 10% hemolysis incidence, the direct cost impact of hemolysis waste is approximately $4 million/ year as a result of the 1 h of added length of stay on average for a patient with a hemolyzed blood sample. This amount represents an annualized estimated cost of caring for a patient in the ED with an avoidable extended length of stay. Conclusions: The financial burden of poor-quality blood samples can be estimated using cost per bed-hour and rate of sample failure. Similar methodology may identify additional QC issues with previously invisible financial implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1607-1610
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Applied Laboratory Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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