Have you heard the news? We are making a difference. Earlier this week we announced that a majority of our organ procurement organization (OPO) members have cultivated and/or adopted new technology and innovations. This is contributing to the increase in organ transplants recently reported by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and putting our community on track to exceed the government’s transplant goals.

While this is an amazing accomplishment, we believe we can do better, which is why we have committed to 50,000 annual transplants by 2026. As you’ve heard me say, success will be achieved through community-wide improvement by expanding collaborations among OPOs and other stakeholders, reducing health inequities to improve access in diverse communities, maximizing organ utilization by transplant centers, and driving research and innovations. And now we have the initial results to show that our approach is working.

Collaboration Results in World-Leading Transplantation Rates

Recently, UNOS announced that the United States is on track to exceed 40,000 organ transplants by the year-end. This represents an 11% increase in the number of organ transplants from deceased donors from the previous year. These are world-leading transplantation rates and are the result of collaboration between OPOs and stakeholder partners to improve the productivity of the organ donation and transplantation system. A recent informal survey of AOPO members revealed that OPOs are continuing to advance new practices to save more lives.

OPOs Identify New Technologies Used to Improve Transplantation

    • OPOs are utilizing transportation logistical services, such as MediGO and UNOS, that ensure the safe transport of organs between the donor hospital and transplant center. A device is attached to the organ packaging that allows OPOs and transplant hospitals to monitor the precious cargo on a map in real-time and notify key staff upon arrival.
    • OPOs are partnering with organizations, such as MissionGo, to utilize unmanned aircraft drones as a solution to transfering organs to waiting recipients faster and more reliably. This year, The Living Legacy Foundation participated in a flight demonstration to transport blood for fast-track lab testing and LifeSource helped transport the world’s first human pancreas via unmanned aircraft.
    • OPOs are partnering with donor management systems, such as Transplant Connect and LifeLogics, to improve the donor identification and referral process to expedite hospital operations and optimize OPO performance.
    • OPOs are also using new organ preservation technology to extend the time an organ is viable between recovery and transplantation. The University of Minnesota’s organ cryopreservation technology, is an example, which is revolutionizing how organs are stored, shipped and used in surgeries.
    • OPOs are continuing to implement and expand donation after cardiac death (DCD), an innovative method to procure organs from donors who have suffered a neurological injury but do not meet brain death criteria that will save more lives.
    • The majority of OPOs will participate in 25 quality improvement teams that are part of the End-Stage Renal Disease Treatment Choices Learning Collaborative. This CMS-funded national effort will share highly effective practices of donor hospitals, OPOs, and transplant centers and is expected to increase the number of deceased donor kidneys transplanted by 15%, decrease the national discard rate from 20% to 15%, and increase kidneys recovered from medically complex donors by 14%.

The evidence of our progression forward is documented. According to Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) data, since 2015, deceased organ donation has increased 38%, organs recovered by OPOs have increased 34%, and organs transplanted from deceased donors have grown 32%. These significant successes over a short period of time have led to more patient lives saved.

So, let’s celebrate this initial success, but know that there is much more to do to ensure every donation opportunity results in transplantation. Only through continued hard work and dedication to innovation and research will we achieve the goal of 50,000 organ transplanted.

Steve Miller, MBA, CAE

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