Vital Signs Blog

Blog: CDC awards $10k to eight winners of blood clot prevention challenge

Eight healthcare organizations that demonstrated effective strategies for reducing rates of preventable hospital-acquired blood clots are now $10,000 richer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released the results of a nationwide challenge that sought best practices for managing venous thromboembolism.

VTE—or blood clots occurring as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism or both—continue to be a major public health concern. The problem leads to approximately 100,000 premature deaths every year.

While VTEs are the most common preventable causes of hospital death, the CDC says effective pharmacologic prevention methods remain underused. So the agency launched a contest in November to find facilities that implemented effective strategies and sustained measurable and scalable results.

Though the CDC would not say how many applications were received, Michelle Beckman, an epidemiologist in the division of blood disorders, said it "surpassed what we expected.”

A committee of six HHS staff members, including four from the CDC, one from the National Institutes of Health and one from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality independently gave each applicant a grade of up to 100, based on their methods, outcomes and utility of the strategy. Scores were then averaged and the top two were chosen from four different categories.

“Not only did winners have success in their own hospital, but they scaled it out to other hospitals, or others chose to adopt their methods,” Beckman said. The $10,000 prize winners include:

Large healthcare network or multi-hospital system

  • Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  • University of California Health, Center for Health Quality and Innovation, Oakland

    Medium healthcare network or multi-hospital system

  • University of Wisconsin Health, Madison
  • Intermountain Healthcare, Murray, Utah

    Large single hospital

  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore

    Small to medium single hospital

  • Harborview Medical Center, Seattle
  • Hutchinson (Kan.) Regional Medical Center

    Four organizations also received honorable mentions (but no financial reward). They are: the Michigan Hospital Medicine Safety Consortium in Ann Arbor; Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore; Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Ireland; and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

    In general, winning organizations used strategies that engaged teams of experts from different departments, and they educated both patients and providers about the need and benefit of the program, Beckman said.

    They also frequently used technology to do electronic risk assessments of patients, and provided real-time feedback (through dashboards and scorecards) to help clinicians track adherence or compare outcomes with colleagues.

    Details about each organization's VTE reduction program were posted on the CDC website Tuesday.

    The initiative is a part of, a federal program launched in 2010 to use crowdsourcing to spark innovative solutions to national problems. To date, the website has hosted more than 650 competitions and awarded over $220 million in prizes across various sectors, including healthcare, education and defense.

    Current healthcare-related challenges include the opportunity to win up to $15,000 for creating an opioid recovery app and up to $50,000 for creating an app that aggregates health data for consumers.

    Though it's an innovative way to crowdsource strategies at low cost, critics also warn of pitfalls to the challenges (PDF).

    “Agencies mainly use for so-called “low-hanging fruits,” wrote authors from Syracuse University in a paper presented in 2014 at an international conference on system science. They analyzed over 200 contests from the website to determine what impact they had on actual practice.

    The projects, they said, are often those that are easy to outsource and implement, but less frequently lead to problem solvers identifying complex technological solutions. The efforts “help them better understand how to improve their service delivery, but not necessarily the service itself,” the authors state.

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