AwardsResearch and TechnologySouthwest Transplant Alliance

Breaking Ground with New Donation Technology  

By October 21, 2019 No Comments

One of the pillars of the Outlive Yourself Foundation’s mission is to advance transplant science. Southwest Transplant Alliance, the parent organization of the Outlive Yourself Foundation, collaborated with software provider Transplant Connect and CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital – Tyler on a first-of-its-kind automated referral system that has transformed the way the industry operates, saving countless more lives.

In the highly complex world of organ and tissue donation, efficient communication between partner hospitals and organ procurement organizations (OPOs) is key for success – and for saving lives. But the moment a patient who has the potential to give life enters a hospital, a figurative countdown begins, precious seconds ticking away that make the difference between viable donation and arriving on a case too late.

The current process is largely dependent on human evaluation: First, nurses or healthcare providers must recognize when a patient with a critical injury or illness who is also intubated in the hospital meet designated clinical triggers, often listed on a small card they carry. Next, they must find the time to call in a referral to STA, answering questions about the case for screeners to determine potential viability for donation. The barriers to success are clear – hospital staffs are often stretched thin, and potential misses or late calls are inevitable.

The iReferral System takes much of the potential for human error out of the equation, maximizing every opportunity for organ and tissue donation, and in turn, optimizing hospital and OPO staff resources. As patient data is entered into the hospital’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system, the integrated iReferral System is programmed to automatically alert STA when clinical triggers are met. Thus a timely, and largely accurate, referral is sent without additional staff time.

“This new system is a game changer,” said Patti Niles, CEO and President of STA.  “Because iReferral seamlessly automates the referral process, it virtually eliminates the possibility of human error and risk of delay. This is incredibly significant because less than one percent of all people who die can be organ donors, so it’s a matter of life and death that we maximize the donation opportunity.”

The iReferral System improves the organ donation system at the beginning – if referrals from hospitals are increased, the pool of potential donors then increases. And when 114,000 people are awaiting a lifesaving organ in the United States, every new opportunity can mean another life saved.

“Not only will this allow a timely notification, but it will also allow the nurses to focus on the patient, rather than being away from the bedside, tied up on the phone to relay important information to Southwest Transplant,” said Mike Breen Eckhard, MSN, RN-BC, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Informatics Officer, CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System. “This is a perfect example of how technology can work for the nurses, rather than forcing them to work with technology. I’m proud of the team that has worked so hard on this project and the impact it will have on lives of patients.”

The iReferral System launched at CHRISTUS Mother Frances – Tyler in October 2018, with much success in what was considered a testing phase for the program. In only six months of operations at the hospital, Southwest Transplant Alliance saw a 52% increase in tissue referrals and a 31% increase in tissue donors. Most notable, though, is the impact on organ donations: from January through June 2019, there was a 61% increase in organ donor referrals that led to a 500% increase in the lives saved from the transplants from patients at that single hospital when comparing the same timeframe in 2018.

The program’s near-immediate success led to a rollout in three more CHRISTUS System hospitals (Jacksonville, Sulphur Springs and Winnsboro), and major hospital systems in DFW and other areas in Texas are in talks for implementation with their own systems in the coming months.

The iReferral collaboration and successes have been widely recognized by industry leaders for its impact on our mission of saving lives. The program as been featured at numerous national conferences and received several awards, including the 2019 NATCO Innovation Award last August (photo at left).

The iReferral System is groundbreaking for the organ and tissue recovery industry, and organizations across the country have taken notice. At the annual American Association of Tissue Banks Conference this September, one of the country’s largest EMR providers, CERNER, will announce a national roll out of the program. The result will mean countless more lives saved across the country.