"This is where the industry is going," says Joe Weber, CORE's chief financial officer. Adds Kurt Shutterly, CORE's COO, "It's better for the OPOs, better for the hospital, and better for the families." Just on cost alone, there's a huge advantage, he says. While a cardiothoracic workup costs $30,000 at a donor's hospital, "we should be able to do that for a fraction of that cost."
While the donor is kept breathing in CORE's intensive care units, surgical teams from any of the five nearby transplant hospitals will zoom in. Then, at a precise, pre-set time multiple surgeons in one of the facility's three surgical suites, will retrieve the organs. The surgeons will take them back to their respective transplant hospitals to be placed in waiting patients by other surgeons.
Overall transplant costs are reduced because CORE can perform testing and other services more cheaply and rapidly than donor hospitals, which charge the OPO at higher rates for those services. And cold ischemic time—the time the organ is outside of its donor—is reduced, which studies suggest improves retention and viability for the recipient.
Another benefit: Surgeons and their teams don't have to spend hours waiting around for operating room time to recover those organs, nor do they have to travel long distances.
Finally, families are spared the prolonged wait, often at the bedside of the deceased patient, until the surgery begins. They will say their goodbyes and go home once the brain-dead donor's body leaves the hospital.
Operating a center that maintains a heart beat for a brain-dead donor is an expanded role for an organ procurement center, 58 of which are regionally certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to evaluate potential donors, discuss donation with family, run match lists, and arrange for recoveries. Many OPOs currently run such donor procurement centers, but only for cadaveric donation of tissue and bone, not for organ donation in a brain-dead donor.