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OPTN DCD Procurement Collaborative concludes with Learning Congress; both cohorts increased recovery of DCD donors

Published on: Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) recently concluded a national project aimed at supporting efforts to increase organs available for transplant, an OPTN strategic goal. The donation after circulatory death (DCD) Procurement Collaborative focused on identifying and sharing effective practices related to recovery of DCD organ donors. Over the course of nearly two years, 75 percent of the 57 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the U.S. participated in one or both of the two cohorts of the project. The initiative used a collaborative improvement approach, which provided a focused framework to help OPOs develop goals, track progress and share key learnings.

Each of the two OPO cohorts worked collaboratively for a six-month engagement period on improvement efforts in these key areas:

  • Optimizing clinical practices and staffing structures
  • Strengthening donor hospital and transplant program relationships
  • Enhancing the process for obtaining authorizations

Collaborating to improve: Results and key takeaways

The overarching goal of the project involved increasing organs available for transplant by identifying and sharing effective practices regarding approaches to DCD procurement. To support that goal, each cohort worked toward an aim specific to DCD donor procurement. OPTN performance improvement specialists facilitated offerings such as webinars, collaborative calls, and individual coaching sessions, and both cohorts increased DCD donor procurement by more than 20 percent during selected cohort timeframes. Find details about each cohort below.

Cohort A
26 OPOs
Cohort B
30 OPOs (13 from Cohort A)
Active Engagement January – June 2021 November 2021 – April 2022
Cohort Aims
Increase DCD donor procurement by 20%

Increase DCD donor procurement by 28%

Cohort Aim Results Cohort A increased DCD donor procurement by 34% over the year prior Cohort B increased DCD donor procurement by 21% over the same 6 months the year prior

July Learning Congress brought together OPOs in Denver to share key successes

As the central hub in the donation and transplant community, the OPTN was able to bring members together to mark the conclusion of the DCD Procurement Collaborative and to continue the improvement momentum in the OPO community. The OPTN hosted an in-person Learning Congress in July 26-27 in Denver, Colo., and invited all OPOs to attend and take part, regardless of project participation, in order to discuss common challenges, identify potential solutions, and share improvement ideas related to DCD donor procurement. More than 90 OPO professionals from 43 OPOs attended the Learning Congress.

Collaborative participants shared their quality improvement projects related to the three key areas. Discussion sessions focused on allocation strategies, authorization practices, and using data meaningfully. Sessions also focused on addressing strategies and challenges specific to roles within organizations. Learning Congress recorded sessions are available in the OPTN DCD Procurement Collaborative playlist in the OPTN Learning Management System (available through the OPTN contractor web portal known as UNOS Connect).

More about OPTN improvement structures

The recordings and accompanying slide sets for the plenary sessions are available in the OPTN Learning Management System (available through the OPTN contractor web portal known as UNOS Connect), where there is a OPTN DCD Procurement Collaborative playlist*:

  • QLT156: Collaborative Project Highlights and one OPO’s DCD Improvement Strategies
  • QLT157: Optimizing Clinical Practices and Staffing Structures
  • QLT158: Strengthening Hospital and Transplant Program Relationships
  • QLT159: Enhancing the Process for Obtaining Authorizations
  • QLT160: OPTN DCD Procurement Case Studies
*Completed modules will provide ABTC Category 1 CETPC credits

Collaboration and sharing of effective practices contribute to success of system

The OPTN strategic plan specifically encourages inter-organ and inter-program collaboration and the development of effective practices to increase the number of DCD donor organs recovered and transplanted, and many OPOs have been steadily and successfully increasing DCD volumes while maintaining or increasing recover of donation after brain death (DBD) volumes.

A recent report produced by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) notes that many OPOs have become skilled systems improvers through the use of quality improvement methods that are at the core of collaborative improvement. NASEM recommends that successful DCD recovery models be shared, adapted and used within the wider donation and transplant community.

The OPTN designs projects, such as the DCD Procurement Collaborative, so members can readily share effective practices with their peers, who can then implement them to spread progress and improve the system. The OPTN is currently planning more collaborative projects to improve the system and increase transplant. Visit the Collaborative Improvement homepage for more information about collaborative improvement, upcoming projects and how the OPTN is the community’s improvement partner.


Email with questions about this project or collaborative improvement.