UNOS has pioneered a new Internet-based technology to speed the communication of vital, time-sensitive Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) data.
The new database for the national transplant data system was developed by UNOS' Information Technology Department. "One of the goals of this project is to handle emerging technology," said Berkeley Keck, R.N., M.P.H. and director of IT.
"This is a first. Nowhere else is the Internet being used so directly to save human lives," said UNOS Executive Director Walter K. Graham. "Most people use the Internet for business or entertainment. The transplant community is using it to share life."
The new system, called UNetsm, is used by both transplant hospitals and organ procurement organizations. (They coordinate the recovery of the organs). Accessing a secured Web site, hospitals list patients on the UNOS transplant waiting list. When an organ becomes available, the organization that recovers it uses the same Web site to match the organ to the proper patient. The hospital is then contacted and offered the organ for the matched patient.
UNOS began working on the UNet project in late 1997, with the goals of providing a better database structure for the national transplant system; creating a more user-friendly system; increasing system security; resolving any Year 2000 issues and enhancing UNOS' ability to use future emerging technologies.
UNOS members will use UNet, the new Internet-based computer system, to manage their transplant candidate waiting list; allow access, completion and submission of UNOS data forms; and submit feedback, status justification forms and access reports. OPOs can add donors through UNet and run donor-recipient matching lists. The new system is open to members now for testing and training and is scheduled to go live October 25, 1999.
What can UNOS members do on UNet?
- Add, delete or change patient registrations.
- Enter or review donor data and match results or complete potential recipient forms, or cadaveric donor forms.
- Complete Scientific Registry forms.
- Enter crossmatch trays and results.
- Verify and change minimum acceptance criteria for organ offers.
- Review status of data compliance data.
"The Internet gives us a fast, reliable system to match organs to patients," said Graham. "There are 65,000 people currently waiting for a transplant, so our system needs to be on the leading edge of technology."
Several steps have been taken to ensure patient privacy. UNOS is using Secured Socket Layer (SSL) technology and 128-bit encryption to transfer data over a secured direct connection. Unique user names and passwords provide additional security measures.
External testing of this huge retrieval source by members began in August 1999 along with training for site administrators and users.
Feedback from regional audiences has been overwhelmingly positive. Many UNOS members have said they're ready to move into the new system and the easy access it provides. Others said they're impressed that they will have access to previous data they have submitted to UNOS. IT staff emphasize that their main objective was to create a smooth transition to UNet. The demonstrations seemed to help UNOS meet that goal.
UNOS members will have resources available to assist them in using UNet. The UNOS Help Desk is available to all UNet users, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday. At any other time, the UNOS Organ Center can assist in issues with the waiting list and organ placement.