AOPO Members Share Data and Best Practices to Save More Lives

As we wind down 2021, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible momentum surrounding increasing organ donations and saving more lives. Evidence of this surfaced at the Association of Organ Procurement Organization’s (AOPO) recent 2021 Directors Workshop in Washington, DC, where OPO senior leaders gathered to share successful practices as part of our journey to achieve 50,000 annual organ transplants by 2026.

New Practices and Improvements Result in More Lives Saved

The Director’s Workshop focused on how OPOs are raising the bar by identifying and implementing new strategies to drive improvement and save more lives through donation and transplantation. As you know, we are at the early stages of this effort, but already we are making a difference.  By coming together and collaborating, we have already boosted the number of lives saved thanks to new practices shared, in this case, about maximizing COVID-19 organ donors. This presentation by Lori Markham at Midwest Transplant Network directly resulted in 5 lives saved, that we know of, due to OPOs implementing the changes outlined. While this may seem small, that was the impact during the week of the meeting; imagine where we could be even a year from now?

Workshop Sessions Cover a Wide Breadth of Topics

Our sessions covered a variety of topics, including cultural transformation, perfusion technology, and increased intelligent risk-taking.  We also discussed how to remove barriers to donation after circulatory death (DCD), optimizing data potential and standardization, and COVID-19 research updates. Our members spearheading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts addressed how they are reaching underserved communities to provide education and improve donation rates. And finally, just as important as the clinical and process updates, we discussed the need to build relationships with federal legislators. Continuing to drive improvements and share best practices in all of these areas are key to reaching our goal.

Educating Legislators Leads to Greater Awareness About OPOs Roles in Organ Donation

The final piece of our workshop included AOPO and its members meeting with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to provide education on the lifesaving mission of OPOs and how the organ donation process works. We also shared data on increases in OPO performance over the last five years, including showcasing the United States as the world leader in deceased organ donors. These visits were eye opening to me, as it reinforced the need to educate policymakers on the role OPOs play in the donation and transplantation system. As the experts on organ donation, it is paramount that we continue this effort.

Discussions during the office visits focused on the AOPO 50,000 goal and how Congress can support this effort by:

  1. Seeking policy and reimbursement changes that encourage procurement and utilization of as many organs as possible, including from older and more complex donors,
  2. Supporting National Institutes of Health (NIH) research efforts to develop state of the art technology that increases donor eligibility and transplant success rates,
  3. Supporting the CARE FOR ALL KIDNEYS ACT (H.R. 3893), a bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-DE) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), to improve kidney disease research, prevention, and treatment for minority, rural and other underserved communities. It will reduce the need for kidney transplant while increasing rates of donation and transplantation in these underserved communities.

Collaboration Will Continue to Lead the Way to Success

What we have already learned is that collaborations, such as the Directors Workshop, are empowering our community to move the needle forward in our effort to achieve 50,000 annual organ transplants by 2026.  In addition to OPO collaboration, AOPO was named by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to the End Stage Renal Disease Treatment Choices Learning Collaborative (ETCLC) Leadership Coordinating Council (LCC) to partner with OPOs, donor hospitals, transplant centers, and patients and families to improve the organ donation and transplantation system. Launching in 2022, this collaborative is an opportunity to work with other industry stakeholders on addressing kidney disease prevention and treatment, including improved access to kidney transplants in America.

As you can see, as a community we have much to be proud of from 2021 and more to look forward to in the New Year. Here’s to continued shared success in 2022!

Steve Miller, MBA, CAE

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