US organ transplant network built on unstable technology, report says

The nonprofit that runs the Organ Transplant Network in the United States has outdated technology and has never been fully audited by the federal government. Washington Post,

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has two responsibilities: running the logistics systems powering organ transplants and deciding how to prioritize organ delivery. The draft report, which was compiled by the White House’s US Digital Service in January 2021, recommended separating those two elements under two separate contracts, Washington Post it is said.

UNOS receives about $6.5 million each year from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which oversees the transplant system. But HRSA does not have the technical expertise and has little power to push the network to improve its system.

Washington Post The report highlighted some obvious technical shortcomings:

  • UNOS computer systems have crashed for a total of 17 days since 1999. Once, it was down to three hours—a worrying time because organs can begin to break down and become impractical for transplant in just four hours.
  • UNOS runs most of its systems from a local data center rather than a cloud computing system, which will improve its performance.
  • This requires manual data entry.
  • UNOS has never allowed government officials to see the full code behind the system, which the organization says is a trade secret.

Lawmakers are concerned by security vulnerabilities in the UNOS system, according to a letter from senators seen by the Department of Homeland Security. Washington Post, He said that there is no need for cyber security for UNOS. The Senate Finance Committee will hear on the US organ system on Wednesday, and UNOS chief executive Brian Shepard is due to testify.

Shepard told Washington Post That the Department of Health and Human Services audits the system every year, that the report is still a draft, and that “the transplant system is safe and effective.”

UNOS is the only group to have contracts to perform organ transplants in the United States. The contract is likely to bid in 2023 Washington Post,

HRSA told Washington Post It was committed to “using all available tools to modernize the organ procurement and transplantation network, including taking advantage of the upcoming contracting process to increase accountability.”

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