Improving Policy-Constrained Kidney Exchange via Pre-Screening

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Duncan McElfresh, Michael Curry, Tuomas Sandholm, John Dickerson


In barter exchanges, participants swap goods with one another without exchanging money; these exchanges are often facilitated by a central clearinghouse, with the goal of maximizing the aggregate quality (or number) of swaps. Barter exchanges are subject to many forms of uncertainty--in participant preferences, the feasibility and quality of various swaps, and so on. Our work is motivated by kidney exchange, a real-world barter market in which patients in need of a kidney transplant swap their willing living donors, in order to find a better match. Modern exchanges include 2- and 3-way swaps, making the kidney exchange clearing problem NP-hard. Planned transplants often \emph{fail} for a variety of reasons--if the donor organ is rejected by the recipient's medical team, or if the donor and recipient are found to be medically incompatible. Due to 2- and 3-way swaps, failed transplants can ``cascade'' through an exchange; one US-based exchange estimated that about $85\%$ of planned transplants failed in 2019. Many optimization-based approaches have been designed to avoid these failures; however most exchanges cannot implement these methods, due to legal and policy constraints. Instead, we consider a setting where exchanges can \emph{query} the preferences of certain donors and recipients--asking whether they would accept a particular transplant. We characterize this as a two-stage decision problem, in which the exchange program (a) queries a small number of transplants before committing to a matching, and (b) constructs a matching according to fixed policy. We show that selecting these edges is a challenging combinatorial problem, which is non-monotonic and non-submodular, in addition to being NP-hard. We propose both a greedy heuristic and a Monte Carlo tree search, which outperforms previous approaches, using experiments on both synthetic data and real kidney exchange data from the United Network for Organ Sharing.