5 Ways To Help Couriers Manage Life Guard Organ Shipments

May 22 2013
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Every day, UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) manages the national transplant waiting list by placing organs, gathering donor information in matching process, and assisting in the transportation of the organ from donor to hospital to facilitate the gift of life.  The time interval beginning when the organ is removed from the donor and is cooled with solution, to the time when the organ is implanted is called cold ischemic time. The longer this interval is the less likely an organ will be transplantable. So in an effort to help save as many lives as possible, the commercial airlines have a Life Guard Program to alert the staff on the aircraft and ground personnel in the departing and delivery airports.  This helps ensure the organ from not being bumped from the flight and the fastest possible off-load when it arrives in the destination airport.  However, none of the airlines operate exactly the same and your courier service should be able to manage these accordingly.  I'm going to give you 5 things that your courier should be doing to protect these highly critical shipments in the Life Guard process.

1. Pre-Booking

This is the first step to ensuring your organ shipment receives Life Guard status with the airlines. Time requirements for pre-booking are different with each airline, but usually alerting them in their required fashion 1-2 hours before flight departure is enough. Since an organ shipments destination is not usually know until after pick-up, your courier company's staff should be ready to start the process as soon as they have the delivering hospital information available.  

2. Airline Booking Requirements

Booking requirements vary by airline and include verbal notification by phone, email, and or fax. The important thing is to make sure your courier has all this information at their fingertips and available to all their staff. Organ shipments can come at any day and at any hour, so their whole team needs to know the proper procedure for each airline to ensure no failures.

3. Hours of Operation

Contact should be made with local staff at both origin and destination airports. The courier should verify hours of operation, provide advance notice of the shipment, and request a point of contact for drop off and recovery. Going the extra mile in obtaining this information is vital to avoid possible hang-ups from the airlines that can cost the donor recipient valuable minutes.

4. Note Communications

In any NFO (next flight out) shipment there are plenty of variables to account for.  Any courier company should be logging their communications and records with the airline staff. These noted communications should be available for anyone that may take a call or email regarding the shipment from the surgical team, the OPO (organ procurement organization), or from UNOS as well.  This process also helps improve accountability with the airlines when detailed and accurate records are used.

5. Standard Operating Procedures

Any courier company handling a shipment with the magnitude of an organ transplant should have standard operation procedures in place. As a shipper, don't be afraid to ask to see these SOP's to understand how they operate. If a courier doesn't make these available, I would have some questions. With all the variables of booking a Life Guard shipment the courier should not only have all the steps and decision trees in place, but should also have in-depth contact info for cargo desks and staffs located at the airports. Having direct dial numbers and contacts at cargo counters is very important to keep shipments running smoothly, but also to get quick answers and updates when things go askew.  

The goal of any courier company in the Life Guard program is to elevate attention and awareness of the commodity and urgency with all parties involved.  A lost or delayed shipment could be deadly for the donor recipient. They may not get another chance to find a match. So please consider these 5 factors in your decision process when choosing a courier to transport your organs or serlogies.

Tags: NFO Courier Services Hospital Delivery Next Flight Out courier service life science supply chain solutions

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