A team of transplant nurses and web experts at the University of Chicago Medicine is launching an online assessment form to help streamline the process of pairing patients in need of a kidney with living donors. Complete with Facebook “like” and “send” buttons, the 14-question evaluation can be posted to social networks, connecting potential donors immediately to the first step of the evaluation process and helping to eliminate those donors who are not suitable.
“We needed a better system. We wanted to be proactive and make it easier for potential donors to navigate the donation process and develop a system that can provide feedback on why some people were being excluded from becoming donors,” said Mark Lockwood, RN, MSN, CCRC, clinical research nurse at the University of Chicago Medicine Transplant Center, who assisted with development of the form with Living Kidney Donor Nurse Coordinator Kathy Davis, RN, BSN, CCTC.
Looking at the numbers explains why a better system is needed: As of October 5, there were 637 patients on the kidney transplant wait list at the University of Chicago Medicine. There were 65 transplants performed at the Medical Center, 26 from living donors, in 2011. So far, 32 kidney transplants have been performed this year, nine from living donors. “In comparing the need versus the number of available organs for transplantation, there’s a huge disparity. Increasing the number of living donors is one way to put a dent in this,” Lockwood said.
The idea for the online form came to Lockwood and Davis in May, after a social media campaign drew more than 60 people to the University of Chicago Medicine. “We received an overwhelming number of phone calls that we were getting on behalf of one child on the waiting list. Unfortunately, a lot of people who called were excluded as donors because of high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity,” Davis said, adding that those are some of the most common factors that exclude people from donating.
Hoping to use social media to cast a wider net, the pair turned to the Medical Center’s web team for help. Senior Web Content Specialist Lisa Spengler designed the framework for the basic health assessment form.
“We looked at this as a staged approach to achieve the goals of capturing more potential donors, weeding out those who are ineligible and hopefully lightening the workload of the transplant coordinators,” Spengler said.
Senior Programmer Soma Chaudhury built an online questionnaire that can be blasted via social media and completed in less than five minutes. The questionnaire helps evaluate users’ body mass index, and asks questions about blood pressure, blood sugar and if they have suffered from cardiovascular, autoimmune or lung diseases. Users who have one or more of these health problems are bounced to a web page explaining why they do not meet the criteria for a living kidney donation. Those who pass the first evaluation form are sent to a more in-depth downloadable form, where they can fill out personal contact information and their medical history. “I know the social media tools will be helpful, and I hope more people will begin the evaluation process,” Chaudhury said.
Not only is the form a tool for users to find out immediately if they may be eligible to donate a kidney, but it also is an opportunity to track and analyze the data that is captured. The team is hopeful the convenience of the online evaluation page will help put patients and their loved ones more at ease and give them a sense of control in the process.
“With the form, you can just put it out there for people. Rather than having the potentially awkward conversations, asking people individually if they would be willing to donate an organ, all you have to do is provide a link to the website,” Lockwood said.
To fill out the evaluation form and see if you’re eligible to be a kidney donor, visit: