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January 16, 2020

How Christus Trinity Mother Frances increased organ referrals—and saved nurses time

Daily Briefing

    When Texas-based Christus Trinity Mother Frances realized that its ICU nurses were hard pressed to provide high-level acuity care to dying patients and alert their local organ procurement organization (OPO) of a potential death, officials automated the system—and saw big improvements, Jessica Kim Cohen reports for Modern Healthcare's "Transformation Hub."

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    Calling the OPO

    Under federal regulation, hospitals must notify their local OPO when an ICU patient is about to die. The alert is intended to ensure there's enough time to deem the patient's organs eligible for donation and for the procurement team to recover the organs while they're still viable for transplant. The task of making this call falls to nurses, according to Kim Cohen.

    Mike Breen Eckhard, chief nursing informatics officer at Christus, said, "The timing is so important," but often "at the time that a patient becomes eligible to be a donor, the nurses are really busy with the high level of acuity of that patient." That often means nurses don't have time to step away, even for a short phone call, Eckhard said.

    Christus' automated system

    With this dilemma in mind, an interdisciplinary team at Christus developed an automated alert system that was integrated into the health system's EHR, Kim Cohen reports.

    Using this new system, when a nurse enters patient information into the EHR that indicates the patient's death is near, the EHR automatically sends that data to the Southwest Transplant Alliance, the OPO Christus uses.

    Christus Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler was the first Christus hospital to try out the new system, and it saw a 40% increase in referrals for the period between January and October 2019, compared with the same time period in the previous year, Kim Cohen reports. The system has also saved time for ICU nurses.

    Now, Christus has implemented the system at its other hospitals as well.

    Alex Tulchinsky, chief technology officer at the United Network for Organ Sharing, said that systems like the one Christus developed could help OPOs standardize the data they receive from hospitals and in turn increase the number of organs to be transplanted.

    "The more donors there could be, the more donations there could be, the more transplants there could be," he said (Kim Cohen, "Transformation Hub," Modern Healthcare, 1/11).

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