Voices in Transplant
Perspectives from the organ donation and transplant community driving innovation, improvement and insights to save lives together
Using data to save lives: Neelam Singh’s business intelligence and data products team
Neelam Singh manages the business intelligence and data products team at United Network for Organ Sharing, which works with the community to build effective, efficient and user-friendly data tools.
“Business intelligence is the process of transforming data into meaningful information,” Singh says “Some organizations use these insights to make decisions to improve performance and reduce operational costs, but in transplantation — when data literally has the power to save lives — its value is beyond measure.”
Feb. 17, 2020
Pediatric surgeon on new liver distribution policy: “Saving children is about preserving our future.”
Pediatric transplant surgeon George V. Mazariegos, M.D., has dedicated his career to saving the lives of critically ill children through the gift of organ transplantation. In an op-ed published in The Hill in August 2019, Mazariegos implored lawmakers to consider the lives of young people who would benefit from the new liver distribution policy that was passed by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Board of Directors in December 2018.
The new allocation policy recently went into effect on Feb. 4, 2020. Mazariegos, who serves as chair of the OPTN’s Pediatric Transplantation Committee, says children will start benefiting right away, because all deceased donor pediatric livers will be offered to children first before being offered to less critically ill adults. “This is a life-saving game-changer for children waiting for a liver transplant.”
Read Mazariegos’ Aug. 8, 2019 op-ed.
Learn how the new allocation system is more equitable and saves more lives.
Feb. 10, 2020
Introducing UNOS’ new mission and vision statements: A message from the Board of Directors president
As the organ donation and transplantation community concludes another record-breaking year in organ transplantation, United Network for Organ Sharing Board of Directors President Maryl Johnson, M.D., shares the nonprofit’s new mission and vision statements. “As we seek to learn, grow and share our collective expertise in 2020, my hope is that UNOS’ new mission and vision statements will remind our entire community to continue bringing ideas for ways we can get stronger and better together,” she said.
Jan. 30, 2020
Making liver distribution more fair and equitable: New allocation policy will save more lives
Fewer people will die waiting for an organ transplant, more children will receive a transplant and the geographic location of patients will be less important than how sick they are according to statistical modeling under the new liver and intestine distribution policy. Adopted by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Board of Directors in December 2018 and planned for implementation on Feb. 4, 2020 the policy is projected to reduce waitlist mortality by roughly 100 fewer deaths each year. “Until the waitlist goes away, those of us involved in the nation’s donation and transplant system must strive to save more lives each year by reducing the number of patients who die while waiting,” said United Network for Organ Sharing CEO Brian Shepard. “The new liver allocation policy will help accomplish this goal.”
Jan. 27, 2020
Pushing boundaries to improve organ utilization efficiency
Nearly 20 percent of kidneys recovered from deceased donors are not transplanted, while approximately 13 end-stage renal disease patients die each day awaiting a transplant in the U.S., according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
In November Andrew Placona, United Network for Organ Sharing’s first data science manager, published an article in the American Journal of Transplantation that proves the concept that an innovative natural language processing model could improve upon existing predictive organ utilization models. “Given that kidney utilization is a concern to our community, we gambled on the possibility that the free text data contained in deceased donor registration forms could help us understand the kidney utilization issue in ways that had not previously been characterized,” he said. “We found that these data have potential value.”
Jan. 17, 2020
Organ donation again sets record in 2019
Nearly 11,900 people provided the lifesaving gift of organ donation upon their death last year, making 2019 the ninth consecutive record-setting year for deceased donation in the United States and representing an increase of 10.7 percent over 2018, according to preliminary data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Organ transplants from living donors also established a new all-time record in 2019, with 7,397 total living donor transplants far exceeding the previous record of 6,992 set in 2004. “A key to continuing to improve the transplant system is to develop new data tools, technology innovations and process enhancements so donation and transplant professionals can make efficient decisions,” said United Network for Organ Sharing CEO Brian Shepard. “We are partnering with experts inside and outside the transplant community to use new tools and ideas to save more lives.”
Jan. 10, 2020
Efficient organ allocation
Information technology professionals at United Network for Organ Sharing work with organ allocation and transplant community members around the country to develop the technological platforms that match organs and save lives every day. “Within the last two years I’ve seen the UNOS team at work on electronic notification algorithms, APIs to help with seamless data exchange for image sharing, organ offer filters and mobile applications, to name a few,” said Walter Herczyk, who is the director of laboratory services at Gift of Life Michigan — Michigan’s only federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. “All of this work helps to improve and make organ allocation as efficient of a process as possible,” he said.
Read more from Herczyk about how he has seen UNOS’ IT departments evolve over the years to improve the technology development process and deliver innovative solutions to the organ donation and transplant community.
Dec. 19, 2019
Stories of hope
A father's voice
As a transplant dad and information technology professional, Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Board of Directors member Joseph Hillenburg applies his IT expertise to help advance United Network for Organ Sharing’s vision of providing a lifesaving transplant for everyone in need. “As a recipient parent, I am comforted that UNOS is always improving its ability to match donors to recipients — as they did for my son. As an information technology professional, I am pleased that UNOS is continuously improving and working toward best practices.”
DEC 5, 2019
Transforming policy into algorithms: A message from UNOS CTO Alex Tulchinsky
United Network for Organ Sharing works as the convener of the organ allocation and transplantation community, translating policy decisions made by transplant professionals into technology platforms that save lives. “Our job is to take the policies and convert them from English into computer algorithms,” said Chief Technology Officer Alex Tulchinsky. “By integrating policy development with the way IT works and by infusing technological practical approaches to how policy is being worded we are able to offer options to the committees to help them determine ways for an expeditious implementation.”
Nov. 27, 2019
Uniting policy and information technology
UNOS uses data to develop strategies that drive improvement. Here enterprise data management director Catherine Monstello discusses how UNOS collects data to improve the transplant system: "We collect critical data from hospitals and organ procurement organizations and combine those data along with our policies and business rules to match organs to the patients who need them."
Improving our technology infrastructure: A message from UNOS CEO Brian Shepard
United Network for Organ Sharing CEO Brian Shepard responds to the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement that it will issue a request for information. The RFI will ask for ideas and information about how to improve the national information technology system for matching transplantable organs and managing detailed, confidential medical data on transplant patients and organ donors. “We are glad to have national attention devoted to how our system can further improve,” Shepard said. “We’re also glad to share our experience and expertise in managing the vital, complex and rapidly evolving technology needs of the community we serve.”
Nov 8, 2019
Creating the first national donor image sharing hub: “I was amazed when I saw the images.”
A medical image sharing pilot project underway now at United Network for Organ Sharing may soon give organ procurement organizations, and donor and transplant hospitals, universal access to high-quality medical imaging studies during the organ offer process. Daniel Jacoby, M.D., who is the director of the Comprehensive Heart Failure Program at Yale School of Medicine, was one of the first physicians to interact with the system. “I was amazed when I saw the images,” he said. “They look like you’re looking directly at an echo screen. This is a step forward for our patients.”
Read more on the pilot project that offers quick access to high-quality medical images.
Feb 5, 2019
When every minute matters: “We measure just about everything we do.”
Roger Brown directs the United Network for Organ Sharing Organ Center, which has been in continous operation 24/7 for more than 35 years. “We measure just about everything we do,” he said. “How much we do. How fast we do it. How accurate that work is and is that work meeting the needs of the community?” In this series of videos, Brown and the Organ Center team discuss how they work with the donation and transplant community to meet the daily challenge of matching organs and saving lives.
Learn how Organ Center staff are trained and hear what motivates them.
Aug 30, 2019
Better offer screening: “We want programs to understand what their practice is and to refine it.”
Some transplant programs field many thousands of offers in a year, but might accept only a few hundred for their patients. In June, United Network for Organ Sharing launched the first phase of a pilot project to develop an innovative tool that will help change that by altering how offers are filtered. The project is testing ways to avoid unwanted offers, accelerate organ allocation and transplant more organs. The goal? Increase kidney utilization by helping organ procurement organizations find an accepting candidate more quickly. “We want programs to understand what their practice is and to refine it — so organs are directed to centers that will take them, faster,” said UNOS business architect Rob McTier.
Read more about the pilot project that is testing ways to avoid unwanted offers, accelerate organ allocation and transplant more organs.
Jun 28, 2019
Creating a fair and equitable system by increasing access to organs
What’s equity in access? “More fair for more people,” says UNOS business architect Bonnie Felice. “The organ-specific committees are always looking at ways to increase the number of transplants and increase equity in access.”
New England Donor Services president and CEO Alexandra K. Glazier shares success strategies
“The work of organ donation improvement is hard work. It is roll-up-your sleeves, boots-on-the-ground work, finding specific operational strategies that collectively make incremental change. There is no easy fix or a single solution — those of us in the OPO trenches know that, but many in the broader community may not.”
Read more about Glazier’s strategies for success.
Apr 30, 2019
How tech teams save lives
“These changes our project team worked on are going to help patients, because it’s going to make a more rapid system with quicker responses.” Hear Michael Ghaffari, UNOS software engineering manager, explain how reducing code base during the kidney allocation system implementation improved the UNetSM system.
Mar 31, 2015