Donor application: utilizing social media to identify potential live donors

Komal Kumar
Andrew Cameron


Background: Currently, there are over 100,000 Americans awaiting deceased donor kidney transplants. Despite the overwhelming demand, only about 15,000 kidney transplants occur each year. With rates of deceased donation stagnant, live donor kidney transplant is the only area for expansion of the organ supply. Unfortunately, many patients with end-stage renal disease report significant barriers to identifying a live donor. We hypothesize that utilizing the Donor App can help patients overcome these barriers, share their respective stories, and identify potential live kidney or liver donors by capitalizing on an existing social network. Thus, the goal of this study is to understand the feasibility of the app as a formative process in application development.

Methods: The Donor App, a smartphone application, was developed to enable transplant candidates share their personal stories through Facebook in order to search for potential live donors. The study includes 34 patients recruited from the kidney and liver waitlists at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Participants were assisted in installation of the app at an initial meeting where baseline health characteristics and social media use were obtained via survey. After one month of using the app, patients returned to provide feedback and were surveyed on the ease of installation, ease of the overall application, and the response generated from the Facebook post itself.

Results: Most participants were from the kidney waitlist (63.6%), on the liver or kidney waitlist for less than 1 year (32.4%), and of African American race (56.8%). The use of social media was varied among the participants with 40.0% using social media less than once a week and 26.0% using social media at least once a day. Most participants said the installation process (51.4%) and the overall use of the app (63.9%) was very easy. After using the app, 67% of participants received 10-25 “likes” on their post. With only one month after its initial launch, the Donor App has assisted 1 of our participants in identifying 4 potential live donors. 

Conclusions: The Donor App was very easy for transplant candidates to use in order to share their respective stories via Facebook, despite variation in baseline use of social media. The feasibility feedback received from patients will be informative for further development of the app. Given the success seen in a short amount of time, the app may be a viable tool to help transplant candidates identify live donors.

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