How IoT helps transplant surgeons track organ shipments

Medical teams track donated organs in real time with OrganTracker and KORE to manage the logistics of transplant surgeries

How IoT helps transplant surgeons track organ shipments
Credit: Thinkstock

Transplanting organs is a matter of life and death. That’s why a donated organ has to be transported quickly and safely.

There are more than 120,000 people on the United Network For Organ Sharing (UNOS) National Waiting List. Some patients have to wait up to five years for an organ donation. With so much at stake, how do you make sure a donated organ is transported safely to the recipient?

Organ donation process

The demand for donated organs greatly exceeds the supply, so patients are carefully screened before being added to the Organ Waiting List. The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) defines the policies to be followed by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Here is a simplified version of the protocol used to allocate donated organs:

  1. Patients are first evaluated by transplant physicians to determine if and when they should be placed on the waiting list. This depends on the patient's medical urgency, blood, tissue and size match with the donor; time on the waiting list; and proximity to the donor.
  2. Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and pancreas.
  3. The first priority goes to patients at transplant hospitals located in the same region as the donor to increase the chances of a successful transplant by doing it quickly.
  4. When there isn’t a good match locally, the organ has to be transported quickly to the transplant hospital.

How IoT helps with transplant organ transfers

An ice-cold preservative solution is flushed into the organ to be donated. It is then packed in several layers of sterile containers. Each organ is accompanied by extensive paperwork documenting the details of the donor's history and the test results from the donation surgery.

Organ transplant, IoT, KORE, OrganTracker

The OrganTracker is a web platform that uses battery-operated GPS devices to track the location and status of a donated organ while it’s being transported. A KORE SIM card that spans different cellular carriers provides connectivity. They are attached externally to the transport container to measure:

  1. Position in latitude and longitude coordinates
  2. Shocks from rapid acceleration or deceleration
  3. Barometric pressure: when being transported in a plane, the container is usually kept in the cockpit or managed by the flight crew

The devices send location information and the organ’s condition every five minutes to the KORE PositionLogic console. The container’s location in the air is tracked with the help of a service such as FlightAware as the devices exit cell tower range. 

Organ Donation, Transplant, OrganTracker, KORE http://www.novipod.com/
http://www.novipod.com/

Donated organs are viable for transplantation for four to 24 hours, depending on the type of organ. The odds of a successful transplant are improved if its done quickly after the organ donation. The OrganTracker reduces the time needed to transport organs. A transplant coordinator closely monitors the donated organ’s location to manage the logistics, assemble the medical team and ensure that the patient is properly prepared for the transplant.

UNOS reports that there are 123,000 people waiting for a transplant. IoT tracking of donated organs improve the odds of a successful transplant, but the need for donated organs is enormous. A new patient is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. You can help by doing your part by registering as a donor today.

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