Discussion

Thousand of patients each year receive organs supplied by the nation's OPOs. Without the skill and commitment from the individuals who work in these OPOs, the number of transplant procedures occurring in the United States would be greatly diminished. The ability of OPOs to stimulate participation in organ donation is a key element in meeting the needs of those who are waiting for transplants. This is accomplished through sophisticated marketing and education, innovative practices, contributing to industry knowledge, relationship building, and expert public relations.

Many OPOs have developed a high level of expertise in marketing. Most practice market segmentation and target marketing, and most OPOs expend significant resources in this area. OPOs are constantly trying innovative techniques to improve performance. These range from advancing technology to improving the workplace environment to developing better techniques for stimulating public and professional participation in donation. Sharing information about their successes with these innovative practices is necessary to contribute to the industry knowledge base. This allows others to emulate best practices with an objective of improving overall performance of OPOs throughout the country. As with all successful organizations, OPOs have recognized the imp ortance of effective networking at all levels. They spend a great deal of time building relationships in hospitals, with community leaders, with medical professionals, and among their peers. They also have focused attention on developing relationships with representatives of the news media. This helps to ensure fair reporting when negative news stories about procurement or transplantation arise. Although the transplant community is endeavoring to educate the public about these issues, the public generally is not adequately informed. This situation has added to the mistrust of OPOs and the donation process. Certainly, these problems will require the continued attention of OPOs and the entire transplant community.

Organ procurement is a very complicated process, often involving dozens of people. The primary objective of OPOs is to simplify the process by coordinating the countless tasks and communicating effectively with everyone involved. The extent to which OPOs can accomplish this objective will be paramount to the overall success of transplantation in the United States.

References

1. National Organ Transplant Act of 1984. 42 U.S.C, §201, §273, §2339, §1395, §274 §32, 1984. This landmark was the precursor to most federal transplant legislation that followed.

2. Task Force on Organ Transplantation. Organ transplantation: Issues and recommendations. DHHS Publication. Washington, DC: Office of Organ Transplantation, 1986. Much of the transplant legislation that followed resulted from the recommendations of this national panel of transplant experts.

3. Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986. 42 U.S.C, §3206, §1395-1396, §273-274, 1986. This legislation first defined OPO qualifications, structure and function.

4. Conditions for Coverage: Organ Procurement Organizations. 42 CFR, §486, 1996:468-490.

5. Conditions of Participation for Hospitals. 42 CFR, §482, 1998. This regulation defines current hospital requirements for interacting with OPOs regarding identification and evaluation of potential organ donors. It also defines the mechanism for presenting the option of donation the potential donor's family.

6. United Network for Organ Sharing. U.S. facts about transplantation. http:\\www.unos.org/3/15/03. This website provides the most current statistics regarding donation and transplantation.

7. The Gallup Organization, Inc. The American public's attitudes toward organ donation and transplantation. Boston, 1993. This is the most current national public opinion poll regarding organ donation.

8. Gortmaker SL, Beasley CL, Brigham LE et al. Organ donor potential and performance: size and nature of the organ donor shortfall. Crit Care Med 1996; 24(3):432-439. This article presents data from a multi-regional study regarding the gap between the number of potential organ donors and the number of actual donations. It also presents an estimate of national donor potential.

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