Before Dr. William Crews entered medical school, he worked as a laboratory technologist, and confesses he’s always had a love for conducting experiments and performing tests for patients.
“When I started medical school, that still stayed close to my heart. There was no other specialty that could pull me away,” says Crews. “So, I specialized in pathology. Eventually, I decided to specialize in blood banking.” He adds, “As a pathologist, it keeps me connected to patients and donors.”
In his role as medical director of laboratory services, Dr. Crews works most closely with other physicians to consult on complex patient cases involving blood transfusion needs. Occasionally, he’s asked to talk with donors who may have a question about why they’re not currently eligible to donate.
Why Molecular Testing of Blood Is Important
Molecular testing is a technique used to assess an individual’s genetic code, or genetic makeup. The goal is to predict a patient’s or blood donor’s red blood cell phenotype. This, in turn, provides the healthcare professional with information specific to the individual patient to enable accurate diagnosis. Carter BloodCare’s molecular lab, located in East Texas, performs molecular testing to help doctors treat patients with weakened immune systems and others who must receive ongoing blood transfusions.
Dr. Crews has a special interest in molecular testing and, in particular, accreditation for molecular testing. When asked why he thinks it’s important to seek accreditation, he says “It demonstrates to our customers that we take quality very seriously,” emphasizes Dr. Crews. “And, we want to make sure our policies and procedures are top notch – the best out there.”
Only the second blood center in the country to receive the Molecular Testing Accreditation for Red Cell Antigens from the international organization, AABB, Carter BloodCare is able to provide genotypically matched blood products to its 200-plus medical facility customers across North, Central and East Texas. The accreditation is voluntary, meaning the community blood bank requested the audit and subjected its protocols, procedures, and technique to this rigorous third-party review by experts.
Under Dr. Crews’ direction, the laboratory also received immunohematology reference laboratory (IRL) accreditation. The team at Carter BloodCare believes the IRL, along with the AABB accreditation, places their blood center in a unique position compared to other blood centers in the market.
Three Key Benefits of Molecular Testing:
- Turnaround time is significantly faster when a patient is molecularly typed. Carter BloodCare reports the reduced turnaround time is well over 50% in most cases, as routine, time-consuming antibody testing is no longer necessary.
- Patients who are chronically transfused, such as sickle cell patients, avoid repeat testing, and receive more precisely matched blood that is based on their molecular profile.
- The management of rare donors is greatly improved. A rare donor is defined as a donor who has a specific type of blood that is only found in one percent of the population.
Dr. Crews says that as a participant in America’s Rare Donor Program (ARDP), molecular testing enables his team to increase its active rare donor contributions to the registry and help to fulfill the requests, made on behalf of patients, for rare blood across the United States. It allows the blood center to reduce client costs and testing time by implementing modified patient work-up protocols.
Chart above depicts the increase in ARDP registry contributions since 2012, by Carter BloodCare.
“I think the key difference for our center is our whole objective is focused on serving the community in which we collect blood. And, we like to let our donors know that the blood you donate is going to be helping out patients that are in your community.”
From iPhone cases to Nike sneakers, we live in a society where almost anything can be customized to fit our unique preferences and requirements. And, while these modern conveniences are nice, imagine the impact of customizing a life-saving resource such as blood. This is a reality for Carter BloodCare with Molecular Testing, thanks in large part to the efforts of Dr. Crews.
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