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UPMC Children's Spearheading Initiative To Improve Care For Pediatric Transplant Patients

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburghof UPMC is spearheading an initiative meant to standardize care for pediatric transplant patients.

The Starzl Network for Pediatric Transplantation will allow hospitals to collect and share data to better understand how different approaches to things like patient follow-ups or anti-rejection medication lead to different outcomes.

Dr. George Mazariegos, UPMC’s chief of pediatric transplantation, said that how patients are cared for and evaluated can vary from hospital to hospital. Mazariegos spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

SARAH BODEN: What hospitals will be included in this network? 

DR. GEORGE MAZARIEGOS: Our goal is to have a nationally representative, inclusive network of pediatric transplant centers that are going to agree to focus on being transparent and not being competitive on their own center practice or policy, but actually trying to share their strengths and weaknesses from an outcomes point of view, more candidly. This is rare in the transplant field.

BODEN: Now it’s my understanding that data sharing is pretty complex. It only because of this competition? Or is there more to that?

MAZARIEGOS: It really, I believe, does center first around that competitive intuitional barrier. And once we initiate kind of that foundational step of commitment to being transparent and also to having the support of verifying and checking the data that is submitted into the network, then we’ll take a big first step.

BODEN: How will this network affect the way you do your job, day to day?

MAZARIEGOS: We hope the network will affect our day-to-day practice relatively quickly. This could be related for example to how we monitor the levels of anti-rejection meds in a more effective way. It could involve some simple technology, or innovative technology, were patients could transmit their data back to their physicians to get more rapid turnaround on anti-rejection drugs. That will certainly have long-term benefits that we will see years down the road. But it will also have immediate one year, two year benefits in terms of less rejection, or better graph function, or less complications from their medicines.

BODEN: It does surprise me that the standard of care can vary so much center to center.

MAZARIEGOS: It’s an underappreciated problem that care or outcomes may vary across centers. Even though the oversight from the governmental groups and regulatory bodies that monitor transplantation provides some public information about outcomes that is available right now. When you dig deeper for more detail than just the initial survival, it’s very difficult for that information to be found. The gaps or the problems only become identified when people start to work together and then present their results in an open way that demonstrates that there is an ability to improve.

(Photo Credit: Kit/Flickr)

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.