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Transplant Internet site launched

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) -- The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) said Thursday it will immediately start posting organ availability on a secure website that can be accessed only by transplant surgeons and organ procurement officers.

The goal of the new site is to speed up matches so patients can be moved off waiting lists faster, according to UNOS President Dr. William Payne.

And, in a move that might upset some transplant centers, the UNOS will give statistics on waiting times and transplant results on a separate website just for patients, allowing them to compare hospitals in their region.

One of the biggest transplant centers, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, welcomed the postings for patients. "We think it's great," said spokesperson Lisa Rossi. "We think there should be more information for consumers," she added.

But, said Rossi, "I'm sure some transplant centers may not necessarily agree because these numbers are going to make them much more accountable."

Among other things, the consumer site (www.unos.org/patients/data.htm) will show transplant recipient survival rates at 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years. Rossi says that's a great advance, noting that previous most "up-to-date" data on survival only went through 1994.

Payne says transplant outcomes are indicative of a center's performance. "It's the best information available, but it does not necessarily predict what might happen to the individual patient," he told Reuters Health.

The consumer site will also show how long patients at each center spend waiting for transplants. While some of the waiting time may be out of an individual center's control, "it's still information that many patients ask about," said Payne.

Patients will not be able to access data on organs available for transplant. A separate database, called UNET, will be accessible only to healthcare professionals and transplant coordinators. Under this system, a coordinator will be able to tell UNET an organ is available, and, while online, check regional waiting lists for appropriate patient matches.

UNET -- essentially an online implementation of UNOS's regional allocation scheme -- will eliminate back and forth paperwork and phone calls, and hopefully hasten the transplant process, Payne said.

"Donors are becoming available all over the country, and the Internet is a slicker, more frictionless way to get the information back and forth quickly and securely," he said.

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