Hospital, Organ Procurement Team Receive Medal of Honor
Involvement in national initiative results in organ donation hike at Strong, nationwide
June 30, 2005
Strong Memorial Hospital and Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, the organization that coordinates organ donations across much of upstate New York, were honored with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Organ Donation Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor was given as part of a Health and Human Services program – the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative – created to generate significant, measurable increases in organ donation by helping organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and hospitals to quickly identify, learn, adapt, replicate and embrace “breakthrough” practices. The Collaborative challenged the nation’s largest hospitals to increase their donation rate from the previous national average of 50 percent. Strong Memorial and FLDRN received the medal for achieving 75 percent “conversion” of eligible organ donors to actual donors for a sustained 12-month period.
Administrator Elizabeth M. Duke of the Health Resources and Services Administration conferred the medals at the first Organ Donation National Learning Congress, held in Pittsburgh last month. The event acknowledged the successes of OPOs from across the country and encouraged further participation in the Breakthrough Collaborative.
As part of the initiative, Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network and Strong Memorial completed an eight-month program that tested implementing best practices for the process of organ donation.
The process meant strengthening the organizations’ already strong relationship to identify more eligible organ donors, honor donation intentions as directed by the donor or family, and implement procedures to transfer organs to waiting recipients.
“One of our most pressing public health issues is the widening gap between the supply and demand for organs,” says Robyn Kaufman, Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network executive director. “This Medal of Honor is an extraordinary testament to the dedication all our employees have to provide the gift of life to patients awaiting life-saving transplants.”
In a study of high-performing donation centers, there were key similarities: a culture of accountability; a strong relationship between the hospital and the organ procurement organization; early connection between OPOs and potential donor families; rapid, rigorous referral systems; and visionary leadership on the part of the OPOs and hospital administration.
A team consisting of Strong Memorial and Finger Lakes staff members received intensive training, then designed, implemented and tracked organ donation processes to achieve conversion rates of 75 percent or more. At Strong Memorial, donation increased by 35 percent percent, an increase from 17 organ donors in 2003 to 23 in 2004.
“The Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative has allowed Finger Lakes and Strong employees to work even more closely together, in an effort to facilitate an even great number of life-saving organs for people who so desperately need them,” says Robert Panzer, M.D., chief quality officer at Strong Memorial and leader of the Collaborative team.
The increase in donation was seen throughout the region. Rochester General Hospital and SUNY University Hospital in Syracuse also sponsored teams with FLDRN. SUNY received a HRSA award for achieving a 75 percent donation conversion rate for a six-month period.
Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, which is affiliated with the University of Rochester Medical Center/Strong Memorial Hospital, coordinates organ donation in 19 counties with a population of 2.4 million, and serves 44 hospitals in the Finger Lakes region, central and northern New York.