Government, private entities move to reduce waiting lists
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
The federal government is attempting to shorten the length of time organ recipients spend on waiting lists. A three-pronged plan that involves government agencies and private entities was revealed recently.
Announced at a summit held at the White House, the plan spells out ways the Department of Defense, private businesses and nonprofit groups will work to reduce the number of people on organ waiting lists.
Some 30,000 transplants were performed last year, and there are currently about 120,000 remain on waiting lists. The initial goal is to increase the number of transplants by 2,000 next year.
Of people on waiting lists, 80 percent need kidneys. The cost to keep someone with end-stage renal failure alive is staggering. According to Jeff Zients, director of the White House National Economic Council, Medicare spends $34 billion annually treating people with end-stage renal disease. That's more than 7 percent of Medicare's total budget.
Zients said every patient who receives a kidney transplant saves Medicare $60,000 a year and increases his or her life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.
As part of the plan, the Department of Defense will spend $160 million on a new Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Its goal is to attempt to produce cells and tissues for repair and replacement within the human body with the long-range goal of creating actual organs.
The DOD will also grant $7 million to small businesses that are working on organ and tissue preservation initiatives and another $8 million to companies working to find ways to increase the availability of donated organs and tissues.
Research and education initiatives are other components of the plan.
Several organizations, including the American Society of Nephrology, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, said they would commit millions of dollars to organ donor-related endeavors.
Johns Hopkins University, pharmaceutical company Novartis and the National Kidney Foundation will partner to expand the Live Donor Champion Program to 50 donation centers nationwide. The program teaches patients to use social media to raise awareness about organ donations and identify potential live donor candidates. In initial tests, the number of living organ donation rates increased by nearly 50 percent, thanks to the program.
"While patients are often hesitant to discuss their need for a transplant, friends and family members are eager to spread the word about the possibility of donation and want to be an advocate — a champion — for the patient," said Kevin Longino, CEO of National Kidney Foundation.
Another big component of the plan is getting more people register as organ donors. In surveys, 95 percent of Americans say they support organ donation, but only about 50 percent are registered.
During the summit, the need for easier ways to register as an organ donor was addressed. Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, DoSomething.org, Funny or Die and several other social media sites have agreed to launch campaigns designed to raise awareness of the need for donated organs. The goal is to have 1 million new organ donor registrations and social declarations made by the end of 2016.
Additionally, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the federal agency that oversees organ transplants, will use new data tools in an attempt to help transplant centers recover and use organs more efficiently.
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