Duration: 3 min. read
Management & Operations
There is an ever-increasing demand for organ transplants, a phenomenon driven by the increasing success rate of transplants and the trend to perform transplants earlier on the one hand, and on the other hand, the increase in organ-damaging health conditions, including diabetes and substance abuse disorder. In 2021, over 41,000 transplants were performed in the United States—a record. More than 105,000 Americans need a life-saving organ transplant, and more than 61,000 are on active waiting lists.
The success of a transplant center depends on many factors, but among the most important is the experience of the patient throughout the transplant journey. A critical part of that experience is testing for infectious disease, which is required to keep patients safe both before and after transplantation. Providing the best patient experience means offering the highest quality testing with rapid turnaround, while meeting the patient’s needs for ease and convenience.
For many hospitals, the best option is partnering with a diagnostic lab for their transplant testing needs. How such a partnership can benefit the transplant center was the topic of a recent webinar hosted with the American College of Healthcare Executives featuring Hema Kapoor, MD, senior medical director, Infectious Disease and Immunology and Global Diagnostics Network at Quest Diagnostics, and Elizabeth Cohen, PharmD, BCPS, manager, Transplant Quality, Compliance and Outreach at Yale New Haven Hospital.
Better support means better outcomes
“Transplant recipients need infectious disease testing for the rest of their lives, as many as 500 tests on average,” Dr Kapoor says. That means the transplant center needs laboratory support to manage patients, and “a laboratory with a comprehensive menu of infectious disease testing, expedited turnaround times, and a premium white-glove service can help patients and their caregivers to achieve better outcomes.”
“Transplant clinicians and recipients notice improved outcomes when they work with specialized transplant laboratories that offer comprehensive, quality testing,” Dr Kapoor adds. Especially important is a rapid turnaround for infectious disease testing, since transplant patients receive long-term immunosuppression. A key benefit that a large diagnostic lab can offer transplant centers is dedicated, prioritized testing protocols for transplant patients.
Ease of testing is also critical for donors, Dr Cohen says. “Being a living donor is a totally selfless act,” and offering donors a condensed, 1-2 day preoperative evaluation is valuable. And fast turnaround is essential: “Delays in testing can be delays in transplant, and that can mean rescheduling the donor’s surgery. It’s really important for us to partner with a lab that is dedicated to reducing that risk.”
Meeting the patients where they are
Prospective transplant patients often register at multiple transplant centers, Dr Cohen notes, and they do research to determine where they would like to be treated. Because so much data is collected on transplant patients nationwide, “we know when patients on our list may be transplanted elsewhere or transfer their care to another center. I think the best way to create the best patient experience is to understand why patients might seek care elsewhere.”
For patients, a critical feature is access to testing, Dr Cohen says. “Having a clear and easy means to get the testing they need, when they need it, regardless of where a patient lives, is really necessary to have the best outcomes.” Like numerous New England residents, many of Yale’s transplant recipients like to flee the harsh winters. “It’s important that we deliver those patients the same care as others who may stay in the area,” she says, which is possible if the patients can get their testing done where they are, rather than at Yale. Follow-up telehealth visits can be arranged if needed. In-home collection is also an option, and an especially valuable one for immunosuppressed patients in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients have choices, Dr Cohen adds, “and a good patient experience is going to be an important driver for where patients seek out care. Creating a better transplant testing journey means that we can meet the patients where they are and show that we are invested in their care.”