UNOS is leading a national collaborative improvement project to support organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in increasing recovery of donation after circulatory death (DCD) organs. The project was launched by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network in October 2020, and involves 26 OPOs.*
The number of DCD organs recovered annually has steadily increased over the past decade, with 2020 exceeding 2019’s record-setting numbers by more than 18 percent—extraordinary work during a pandemic year that saw large-scale disruption for OPO staff on the front lines of organ recovery. But there is more work to do.
“Being able to increase the number of donors means that more families are able to share the gift of life. OPOs do an amazing job honoring donor families, it’s what drives them to continuously improve.”
Beth Overacre, UNOS performance improvement lead
“This project’s focus on the recovery of DCD organs highlights the continuing efforts of UNOS and the OPTN to support continuous improvement through sharing of effective practices in the OPO community,” says Henrisa Tosoc-Haskell, UNOS senior director of organizational excellence. “Although there has been steady increase overall in the recovery of DCD organs, we know there is still an opportunity to do better and drive more transplants.”
All teach, all share, all learn: Collaborating to increase organ recoveries
Collaborative improvement methodology, with its “all teach, all share, all learn” approach, allows participants to track progress and share key learnings in a supportive environment. The DCD procurement collaborative improvement project has drawn nearly half of the nation’s 57 OPOs, who are participating in order to build on these performance improvement trends and increase transplants. Coached by UNOS specialists, they are working to improve their organizational processes, become more efficient and save more lives.
Glenda Bronner, UNOS performance improvement specialist, says that because the project has drawn such a variety of participants, there is always something new for someone to learn. “Many of the participating OPOs have been working on this for quite some time, so it’s been helpful for other programs who are just beginning this work.” Having a mix of programs with different volumes has been an important element of the collaborative, and Bronner says the group is keen on sharing resources with each other: “they are proactively looking for new ways to improve and adapt their processes.”
The 26 participating OPOs are in the project’s active deployment phase through June of this year, and have access to a private project platform and an improvement guide. Data will continue to be collected and analyzed through the end of the year. Overall, the collaborative aims to increase DCD donor recovery 20 percent from 2020 to 2021, with every OPO setting their individual aim, from 5 percent to 40 percent.
Beth Overacre, UNOS performance improvement lead, says increasing recovery of DCD organs has an immediate impact on transplant candidates, because it increases organs for transplant, but the effect on donor families is also significant and something that motivates participants. “Being able to increase the number of donors means that more families are able to share the gift of life. OPOs do an amazing job honoring donor families, it’s what drives them to continuously improve.”
The participating OPOs include:
- Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency
- Carolina Donor Services
- Donor Alliance
- Donor Network of Arizona
- Gift of Life
- Iowa Donor Services
- Legacy of Hope
- Legacy of Life Hawaii
- LifeCenter Northwest
- Lifeline of Ohio
- LifeLink of Florida
- LifeShare Carolinas
- LifeShare Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma
- Live on Nebraska
- Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland
- Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency
- Nevada Donor Network
- New England Donor Services
- New Mexico Donor Services
- Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank
- Sierra Donor Services
- Southwest Transplant Alliance
- Tennessee Donor Services
- Versiti Organ and Tissue Donation
UNOS brings collaborative improvement projects to the community
This DCD project is one of several collaborative improvement initiatives UNOS and the OPTN have undertaken in the past several years.
- A pediatric liver discovery project launched in 2020, and involved more than a dozen transplant hospitals.
- Past collaborative improvement projects include the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network, which aimed to reduce risk-avoidance behaviors and increase transplantation of deceased donor kidneys with a kidney donor profile indexgreater than 50 percent.
- A demonstration project is underway that focuses on effective practices regarding how donor hospitals refer potential deceased donors to OPOs.
For more information about collaborative improvement at UNOS, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This article was updated on April 27, 2021.