Donating organs can save lives, and Apple wants to help reduce the donor shortage in the U.S. with an upcoming update to the iOS 10 Health app.
It's no big secret that the lists of patients waiting for an organ transplant are discouragingly long and the number of available organs covers only a fraction of those lists. Desperate people wait for years to get a transplant so they could go on living, while only a lucky few get a second chance at life by receiving a transplant.
For Apple, this issue hit close to home when late CEO Steve Jobs endured a long wait for a liver transplant in 2009. The iconic leader eventually died of pancreatic cancer back in 2011. Apple may not be able to singlehandedly address the shortage, but it wants to do its part and encourage more people to sign up to be organ donors.
As part of its iOS 10 update, Apple will make it easier for users to register as organ donors straight from their smartphones. Simply by tapping a button in the iOS 10 Health app, people will be able to enroll in the U.S. national donor registry and become organ donors. Once iOS 10 becomes available this fall, this feature will reach all iPhones in the United States.
"Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant in the United States. And every day, 22 people die while waiting," the Obama administration said back in May, upon announcing new action to fight donor shortage in the United States.
The set of actions drafted by the government aim to get more people to register as organ donors, thus increasing the number of transplants and implicitly improving the patients' outcomes.
The government allocated nearly $200 million for researching next-generation tissue repair and creation techniques, which could eventually lead to organ replacement, but additional measures are needed in the meantime to address the shortage as soon as possible.
Technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter pledged to support the development of new tools and help promote public advocacy campaigns, and Apple is now joining the fight to boost donor registration.
Allowing people to sign up as organ donors quickly and easily through iOS 10's Health app could not only prompt more users to take the step, but could also help improve automation in the organ donor and matching space. Better automation could facilitate and accelerate communication with transplant centers, which could in turn accelerate the matching process so that donor organs reach patients in need more quickly.
Needless to mention, time is paramount in such critical situations and every minute counts for waitlisted patients and their families.
It remains to be seen just how big of an impact this new iOS 10 Health app feature will have, but at the very least it should help raise awareness and make more people consider the option of registering as organ donors.