Life-Saving Technology
The use of Lotus Notes at the United Network for Organ Sharing

Few processes for collecting and transmitting information are as vital — and as challenging — as the one engaged in by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) in Richmond, Virginia. Since 1977, UNOS has been responsible for matching donated organs with a waiting list of recipients across the U.S. that currently numbers about 32,000. It requires the exchange of massive amounts of information in a very short period of time. Speed is critical because donors can not always be kept in a stable condition, and their organs begin to deteriorate. As a result, even though there is a chronic shortage of organs, many that have been donated still go unused because a compatible recipient can't be located in time.

Now, with the help of Lotus business partner American Management Systems, Inc. (AMS), headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, this critical process is being automated via Lotus Notes, Pager Gateway, Fax Gateway, and Phone Notes. Says David Klein, director of computer services at UNOS, "What it gives us is an opportunity to save lives. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true."

Lengthy phone calls ... and more phone calls

Currently, when permission to use organs has been obtained from a donor's family, an organ procurement coordinator at the donor's hospital contacts UNOS with information on the organs available and gets a list of patients waiting to receive each organ. Up to eight organs may be donated at one time—the heart, the liver, both lungs, both kidneys, the pancreas, and the small intestine—and, for each organ, the coordinator has to telephone, in order of priority, the transplant facilities responsible for the care of potential recipients.

"A lot of information has to be exchanged," says Lisa Wolsh, Assistant Director, Mobile Computing Laboratory of the AMS Center for Advanced Technologies. "Each call can take a half hour to an hour." When there's no match, the coordinator calls the next transplant facility on the list and delivers the same information. "It's a very repetitive, time-consuming process, happening at a time when every minute counts," says Klein. Even when the donor is stable, there is the donor's family to consider. They may have approved the donation of the patient's organs, but they have just...