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Reimagining Our Organ Donation Services for Hospitals

A new pilot program is underway at LifeSource and its success could mean more lives saved.

Since opening our doors in 1989, the LifeSource team has continuously evolved how we approach our work. The stakes are high after all – lives and legacies hang in the balance. Based on our value of innovation and improvement, we’re looking to make some big changes and dramatically increase our impact in the next few years. In 2020, LifeSource set two “Bold Aims” for our future. They are:

  • SAVE MORE LIVES: 1,000 transplants from local donors in 2027.  
  • INCLUSION: Reflecting the diversity of our community by 2025. Achieving equity in communities of color saying “yes” to donation by 2030.  

One key strategy to achieve 1,000 transplants in 2027 is a reimagined Organ Donation Service Delivery model for our donor hospitals.

Chief Operations Officer, Julie Kemink, who is leading the effort described this “reimagine” effort as rebuilding a house. “We’re giving it an overhaul,” Kemink said. “A full remodel.”

Over the past 30+ years, LifeSource has been upgrading – or remodeling – our process incrementally, but this this time we’re stripping it down to the studs. Meeting such an audacious goal will require completely new approaches.

So, what are the major opportunities during this “full remodel”?

First, the level of onsite presence at hospitals. Historically, LifeSource teams will arrive onsite at a designated time, to support a donor family, collaborate with the hospital care team and coordinate donation process. Even large hospitals in metropolitan areas usually have less than 20 donors per year and LifeSource is essentially the specialist coming in when those rare donation cases arise. Under the new model, LifeSource would shift to daily staff presence at those larger hospitals and move from outside consultant to healthcare partner.

In May/June 2021, LifeSource conducted a pilot project to test this approach in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Some benefits identified include:

  • Integrated care and a deeper understanding of each patient, including medical history and family dynamics
  • Building strong, ongoing relationships between the hospital staff and LifeSource team through additional focused time and conversations

Challenges we identified:

  • Skill set: Selecting the ideal skill set for this new onsite role. Organ donation roles are highly specialized from surgical recovery, to maximizing organ function to family support.
  • Staffing: Daily onsite presence requires additional, highly skilled staff.

Through the Sioux Falls pilot, LifeSource was able to confirm those benefits, better understand the challenges and design a new onsite model.

The pilot was a success. What’s next?

  • Implement the onsite model in Sioux Falls. With the success of the pilot in Sioux Falls, LifeSource will implement a new team-based onsite model in this region. This will involve doubling the team from 4 to 9 locally based staff. View our open positions.
  • Explore an onsite model in other, hospitals. Next, we’ll focus the onsite model in Rochester, MN.