"We know we can do it 20% to 25% more efficiently, cost-wise, by moving the donor out of the hospital," he says. And that reduces costs for the Medicare program, whose beneficiaries are often transplant patients. Family satisfaction has not declined either, he says, because "We can move them to surgery quicker, which enables the family, the medical examiner, and the funeral home to get the body back quicker."
Sue Dunn, CEO of Donor Alliance in Denver, says that problems securing operating room time to retrieve organs for her area transplant hospitals also led to her group purchasing and gutting a building just for that purpose in 2011. The facility has two "donor care" units, where brain-dead donors can be maintained until the surgeons arrive, and three 600 square foot operating rooms.
Dunn says that through the Donor Alliance center, surgeons from nearby transplant hospitals have recovered organs from 59 brain dead donors transported from 25 hospitals in the Denver area, all transported to the facility by critical care ambulance. The facility even has a family waiting room, which was included in the layout because of the concern families at the donor's hospital would refuse to let their loved one be transferred unless they could sit with them until the last minutes before surgery.
Brockmeier of MTS says the long history her organization has had with this program has convinced her that other OPOs should strongly consider similar initiatives.
"It's been an amazing journey for us," she says. We've identified something that met the needs of our community, we can respond promptly to our donor partners when they identify the deceased, and they're happy to have us leave and free up the facility for their next critically injured patient."