August 28, 2013 3:48 pm by Stephanie Baum
By entrepreneur and Carnegie-Mellon University professor Sridhar Tayur’s reckoning, as many as 2,500 kidneys are wasted each year. The reasons vary but it’s usually because the people who need these lifesaving transplants are either not registered in more than a handful of transplant centers or they can’t afford to get there. And in the U.S., the availability of organs across the country varies tremendously.
If that figure is accurate, it’s pretty astounding when you consider that as of mid-June, the National Kidney Foundation reported that more than 96,600 of the 118,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant were waiting for kidneys. Only 16,812 kidney transplants took place in the U.S. last year. The 18-49 year old age set faced the longest wait for a kidney. As of 2004, the average wait time was five years.
Tayur argues that if patient knew about regions with shorter wait times, they could take the time to invest in registering at these location. Unlike heart and lung waiting lists, entering a kidney transplant waiting list is done on a regional basis. Tayur’s website, OrganJet, lets users enter their zip code to determine other transplant centers with shorter wait times that are in closest proximity to them. It also provides private jet service to help get customers to their surgeries when kidneys become available.
Among the other services it offers OrganJet helps patients get listed in several transplant centers, including their local one, manage medical information, coordinate the listing across transplant centers, and monitor progress and any changes in waiting times. It also offers helps users select a post-operative recovery location, monitor the recovery and facilitate continued care when the patient returns home.
It seems like a costly service and it can be, if you factor in travel distances, lodging, the cost of registering at multiple sites and getting there when you need to. But considering the goal is lifesaving surgery, Tayur thinks many people will be attracted to OrganJet.
Payers are expressing an interest, too. Although he acknowledges that at least one payer offers reimbursement for a private jet to get members to their destinations on time, Tayur declined to identify them. He said some other payers at least partially reimburse for commercial jet fare to get a transplant. He is in talks with a couple of payers about potentially using the service.
Although at first glance it seems like an unlikely item for payers to reimburse, the cost of prolonged dialysis and hospitalization are likely to outweigh the costs of a private jet that would improve the patient’s health.
Another startup that has developed a service for kidney transplants is Konnectology. Its platform helps users see which transplant centers have the best outcomes.