An organ transplant is a surgical procedure where an organ is removed from one person and placed into another to replace a damaged or missing organ. Organs such as kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, etc., can be transplanted with a huge implication of saving lives.
Today's organ transplant system is fraught with many challenges, right from registration to donor receipt matching, organ removal, delivery, and the various ethical and technical constraints to organ placement. As such, it is in dire need of an end-to-end management system that is secure, fair, efficient, transparent, and trustworthy.
This is where blockchain technology can come to the rescue. The technology's unique attributes can systemize and improve organ transplant management and allocation worldwide.
But before we dive into the role of blockchain in organ transplant, let us understand how organ transplant works.
How Does the Process of Organ Transplant Work?
The organ transplant process begins with the examination of the donors by the hospital. After examining, the hospital sends the records of the donor to the procurement organizer. The organizer evaluates the donor's condition and ensures they are fit for organ donation. They also check that the donor is registered in the medical system.
If the donor is found eligible for donation by the procurement team, their data is sent to the transplantation organizer. Next, the donor is matched to the patients on the waiting list. This step occurs only if the donor has consented to donate organs to anonymous people.
The transplant surgeon reviews the donor's medical records and the prospective recipient's health to ensure that the transplant is appropriate.
Upon approval of the transplant surgeon, the donor's organ is removed by the donor's surgeon and transported to the receiver's hospital to be surgically placed in them.
In the case of a live donor who wishes to donate an organ to a known person, the transplant surgeon directly starts the procedure of removing and transplanting the organ, if suitable.
Current Problems in Organ Transplants Throughout the World
Transplant centers worldwide face the huge challenge of keeping their data valid and secure from hackers and fraudulent employees. Security breaches in the centers could severely compromise donors' and receivers' privacy and safety.
Unfortunately, most systems are not up-to-date and lack proper security standards. This is extremely worrying considering the increasing instances of breaches in recent years, impacting the integrity of the system.
Maintaining transparency throughout the cycle is another challenge affecting the success of the transplant procedure. An alarming WHO report reveals that up to 10% of transplanted organs may have been received by unethical means.
Lack of transparency in the system gives rise to the illegal purchase and sale of organs. Even some hospitals and medical practitioners have been found transferring organs to high-paying patients instead of the high-priority ones.
Moreover, the current transplant system is slow and lacks standardization in communication, which is frustrating and risky in critical, life-threatening scenarios.
How Can Blockchain Technology Help With the Organ Transplant Process?
Blockchain technology has garnered much attention in recent years due to its ability to transform the operations of almost any industry. The technology offers a distributed and secure database without the need for a central authority to verify it.
The purpose of blockchain is to enable the input and distribution of data without the ability to modify it. Using blockchain, medical and patient data can be stored securely, updated, and shared in real-time with the stakeholders.
Further, the immutability feature of blockchain ledgers ensures that data cannot be altered or destroyed without the permission of all entities involved.
Besides secure data recording, blockchain-based smart contracts enable efficient operations and execution of transactions. Smart contracts are program codes stored on the blockchain that self-execute when pre-determined conditions are fulfilled.
For instance, smart contracts can be leveraged to create a waiting list, accept donors after medical tests, and auto-match donors and recipients. This can streamline the process and save valuable time, which is critical in organ transplantation.
Further, the convenience provided by the technology will hopefully lead to more donor registrations, thus helping mitigate the current supply shortage.
Here are some of the benefits that blockchain technology can bring to the transplant industry:
With blockchain technology, the entire cycle of organ transplant can be completed in 2 to 3 easy steps, and the rest is taken care of by technology.
This would significantly improve the current complex system that requires roaming around doctors, hospitals, and donation centers.
Blockchain technology ensures complete transparency between donors, recipients, and all other parties involved, eliminating any opportunity for corruption.
With this, everyone, regardless of their background, will get an equal chance to save their or their loved one's life.
Blockchain technology uses different algorithms to protect user data and ensure their confidentiality. Enterprises can use the technology to develop their private blockchain where only authorized entities can view data.
This is extremely important considering the sensitive nature of data involved in the process, such as patients' health records and family histories.
Further, the inability of any individual to tamper with the data maintains the data integrity.
With automation and self-executing smart contracts, speed in on your side. This would be of great advantage in comparison to the current time-consuming system where work is done manually.
The increasing access to organsand the effectiveness of the operation can significantly reduce the financial burden related to organ transplants in the healthcare industry worldwide.
The current organ transplant management system needs a technological revamp to improve efficiency, security, and transparency.
With attributes like decentralization, immutability, security, and traceability, blockchain technology can be a good fit for the same. In addition, the technology is faster, accessible, and more scalable, which is the need of the hour.
However, using any new technology demands extreme circumspection and a viable long-term strategy to succeed. In addition, certain unanswered questions regarding data privacy and performance need to be looked into.
That said, the extent of the use of blockchain in organ transplant management is something that needs further exploration.
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