Carnegie Mellon University

Will Increasing Access to Private Jets Help Save Lives?

Sridhar Tayur, Ford Distinguished Research Chair, Professor of Operations Management, speaks about his research on overcoming geographical disparities to access to donor kidneys.

Video Transcript

Depending on which donor service area you live in, the chances of you getting a liver or a kidney can be vastly different. And I knew that there were many private jets lying around in this country. There's 18,000 jets that are utilized — less than 40% or 50%.

So, the idea I came up with was to say, "Well, why don't I create a spot market, so that if somebody wants to go from Boston to Pittsburgh, within three hours, we can get them a jet?" They can list in Pittsburgh, get their transplant here, and it's not going to be that costly. Let's say, it's $10,000 a flying hour, so it's about an hour and a half, so for $15,000, that would save your life.

Then I started thinking, can we actually make it free? I started talking to insurance companies and I said, "Look, you guys pay for dialysis. It's $120,000 a year. What if you paid $20,000 — $15,000 for the plane and $5,000 to get listed in the second place — but it saves a year of dialysis of your patients? So, you paid $20,000 to potentially save $120,000." They're like, "Sure, we'll do it." So now the patient is insured, has zero out of pocket. What I thought was just a wacky idea actually saves a lot of lives.

Most of the people waiting for the organ transplant in this country will still die, because the supply is maybe 1/5 of the current rate data. So the question is, how do you increase supply? My idea then was, why don't we package this into a short two-minute video and give it to the person asking?

It could have helped so many people and we were so stuck in our own grief that we didn't think about other people, and I know my dad would have liked that.

And what have we found is about 25% of the people who saw the video who first said no said yes. So if this scales, I think this will save more than a thousand lives a year, just by showing a two-minute video or just thinking out of the box — out of the box for them. It's not out of the box for me because I think of it as supply and demand. I think of it as logistics. I think of it as matching, right? So I think of it as a system. I can't do a transplant, obviously, but I can figure out how to do more transplants.