NASEM Report Shares Top Ways to Improve Organ Donation & Transplantation, Creating a More Equitable System

As you’ve heard me say before, collaboration is how we will advance and save more lives. An important next step in this quest came recently when the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on A Fairer and More Equitable, Cost-Effective, and Transparent System of Donor Organ Procurement, Allocation, and Distribution released a report on its assessment of the organ donation and transplantation system. The report offered recommendations for donor hospitals, organ procurement organizations (OPOs), transplant centers, and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to improve system-wide performance, equity, and organ utilization.

Report Background

The report, Realizing the Promise of Equity in the Organ Transplantation System, was directed by Congress and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The report is data-driven, peer-reviewed scientific research and includes diverse perspectives from experts in the field. Its purpose is to determine gaps in the organ donation and transplantation system and propose comprehensive solutions to foster improvement. The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) supports many of the strategies in the NASEM report and we look forward to taking a deeper dive into the details outlined in it to ensure we are successfully doing our part to save more patient lives.

Key Report Conclusions

Several conclusions arose from the research, and all are consistent with our understanding of the current state of organ donation and transplantation in the United States. We were pleased to see that the report tied into our 50K annual organ transplants in 2026 campaign with some of the same goals and recommendations. Specifically, the NASEM report calls for the need to:

      • Improve equity within the organ donation and transplantation system
      • Increase the number of donated organs used for transplant
      • Improve the system and system performance

Key Recommendations Relevant to OPOs

From the recommendations in the report, the following are the top areas that impact OPOs:

      • Achieve equity in the U.S. organ transplantation system in the next five years:
        • HHS should conduct ongoing culturally targeted public education campaigns to convey the need for organ donation to save lives, to eliminate misconceptions about organ donation and transplantation, and to increase the trustworthiness of the transplantation system
        • HHS should require and support work with OPOs to increase the diversity of their workforce to better meet the needs of donor families
      • Develop national performance goals for the U.S. organ transplantation system in an effort to:
        • Improve donation and increase transplantation rates among minority and disadvantaged populations
        • Reduce the prevalence of organs recovered and not accepted for transplant
        • Increase the number of organs procured from medically complex donors, including increasing Donation after Circulatory Determination of Death (DCDD)
        • Increase the number of transplants to at least 50K by 2026
      • Develop new performance metrics and a dashboard of standardized, consensus-based metrics to compare performance of donor hospitals, OPOs, and transplant centers
      • Establish Donor Care Units (DCUs) for each OPO

AOPO’s Commitment to Improve the System

Because we are committed to saving more lives and to improving the donation and transplantation system, AOPO has invested in a newly initiated AOPO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which began meeting in January 2022. The committee is charged with implementing the recommendations from the AOPO DEI Report, created by an ad hoc AOPO DEI Task Force. The projects aim to improve DEI in AOPO and OPOs around assessment and evaluation, communications, human resources, programming, and training and development. To show our commitment, AOPO developed and signed a pledge to position DEI at the forefront of our mission, vision, and values.

We are moving in the right direction. With NASEM showing specific tactics on how to improve the current donation and transplantation system, and by inviting all system stakeholders to the table for input and discussion, we are one step closer to our goal of 50K annual organ transplants in 2026.

Steve Miller, MBA, CAE

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