Wednesday, August 3, 2022

UNOS and organ transplant technology

 Organ transplant  communications and logistics are difficult, and current procedures are clunky. But never attribute to malevolence what can be accounted for by incompetence (and difficulty).

The Washington Post has the story:

Thousands of lives depend on a transplant network in need of ‘vast restructuring’. White House Digital Service found that the technology that matches donated organs to patients has failed repeatedly  By Joseph Menn and Lenny Bernstein

"The system for getting donated kidneys, livers and hearts to desperately ill patients relies on out-of-date technology that has crashed for hours at a time and has never been audited by federal officials for security weaknesses or other serious flaws, according to a confidential government review obtained by The Washington Post.

"The mechanics of the entire transplant system must be overhauled, the review concluded, citing aged software, periodic system failures, mistakes in programming and over-reliance on manual input of data.

"In its review, completed 18 months ago, the White House’s U.S. Digital Service recommended that the government “break up the current monopoly” that the United Network for Organ Sharing, the non-profit agency that operates the transplant system, has held for 36 years. It pushed for separating the contract for technology that powers the network from UNOS’s policy responsibilities, such as deciding how to weigh considerations for transplant eligibility.


"UNOS is overseen by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), but that agency has little authority to regulate transplant activity. Its attempts to reform the transplant system have been rejected by UNOS, the report found. Yet HRSA continues to pay UNOS about $6.5 million annually toward its annual operating costs of about $64 million, most of which comes from patient fees.


"UNOS considers its millions of lines of code to be a trade secret and has said the government would have to buy it outright for $55 million if it ever gave the contract to someone else, according to the report.


"UNOS oversees what is formally known as the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, a complex collection of about 250 transplant-performing hospitals; 57 government-chartered non-profits that collect organs in their regions; labs that test organs for compatibility and disease; and other auxiliary services.

"Located in Richmond, UNOS sits at the center of the system. It is the only organization to ever hold the 36-year-old contract to run the operation, currently a multi-year pact worth more than $200 million, funded mainly by fees patients pay to be listed for transplants."

HT: Martha Gershun


My understanding is that the contract is occasionally put out to bid, but that any successful bidder would have to be prepared to operate the whole national deceased organ transplant system immediately from a cold start, which is why the issue of who owns the existing software, data, etc. is important.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.