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Albany Med Recognized for Efforts to Increase Organ Donation
   November 2, 2006


ALBANY, N.Y., November 2, 2006—The Albany Medical Center recently received an award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for significantly increasing its organ donation rates to be among the nation’s best hospitals. The federal agency awarded the Medical Center its Donation Medal of Honor for increasing its conversion rate—the number of eligible organ donors who go on to become donors—from 56 percent in 2003 to 75.9 percent in 2005.


The award was given out at the Second Annual Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative National Learning Congress in New Orleans in October.


The medal was awarded as part of the HHS “Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative” program launched in 2003. The Collaborative challenged the nation’s hospitals with the largest donor potential to increase their conversion rates to 75 percent or higher. (Historically, the national average was 52 to 53 percent.)


“This medal is a reflection of the hard work of many dedicated individuals at Albany Med and the Center for Donation and Transplant working collaboratively to improve donation at our institution,” said Bernadette Pedlow, senior vice president for hospital business services and hospital chief operating officer at Albany Med. “Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of these individuals, more organs have been made available to patients awaiting transplants.”


For their part in the Collaborative, Albany Med and its Organ Procurement Organization (OPO), the Center for Donation and Transplant (CDT), selected a multidisciplinary team to attend several training sessions. At each session, the team learned how to replicate the best practices of some of the nation’s largest hospitals that have donation rates of 75 percent or more.


The team began by establishing an in-house CDT organ procurement coordinator at Albany Med. The coordinator’s increased presence allows more time to educate hospital staff and assist them in the identification of potential organ donors. Previously, a coordinator would visit Albany Med three times per week for these purposes.


Next, in conjunction with the 1998 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Hospital Conditions of Participation, which requires hospitals to report all deaths or imminent brain deaths to their designated OPO, the team identified “clinical triggers” to help staff identify potential donors. Now, staff must call CDT if a patient has a brain injury or other condition that causes lack of blood flow to the brain and meets three of the following criteria: deep coma; fixed pupils; absent corneal reflexes; or respiratory paralysis. Team members say these clinical triggers make it easier for staff to recognize when to call in CDT.


Finally, rather than sending donation professionals to approach families about donating their loved one’s organs, the team introduced “team huddles” to determine who among the donation professionals, nurses, physicians or clergy would be most appropriate.


“Organ donation requires a team approach,” said Jeffrey Orlowski, executive director of the CDT. “Families often have difficulty separating the concept of death from donation, but if the option is presented to them by someone they are comfortable with and trust, they are better able to understand that despite their loss, they can still give the gift of life to others.”


The best practices have been reinforced by weekly Collaborative team meetings and the formation of an organ donation quality improvement team that meets monthly.


The teams will continue working on improving conversion rates, and have already begun the second phase of the Collaborative, which will address increasing yield—or the number of organs procured and transplanted from a donor.


More than 93,000 people in the United States are waiting for organs. Each day, 17 people die due to the lack of available organs for transplant.


CDT coordinates the retrieval of donor organs and tissue at 47 hospitals throughout northeastern New York State and western Vermont. Being the primary source of education in the region it serves, CDT is responsible for educating medical professionals and the community at large.


The Albany Medical Center is northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center. It consists of one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, Albany Medical College; one of New York’s largest teaching hospitals, Albany Medical Center Hospital; and one of the Capital Region’s most active fundraising organizations, the Albany Medical Center Foundation, Inc.

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