Bone-marrow transplants are a numbers game. Ten thousand Americans annually require a transplant from someone unrelated to help treat leukemia or lymphoma. Yet only 5,573 received one worldwide last year. Minneapolis-based National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is in year two of a technology overhaul that aims to boost successful matches to 10,000 a year by 2015. It also intends to slash the time between match and transplant—currently about 96 days—by at least 25%. "Patient needs are growing at a precipitous rate," says NMDP CIO Michael Jones, who is leading the not-for-profit's retooling. "We're building a platform to keep up and get ahead of those needs."
Already, the tech effort is paying off. As Greg Bourdeau at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute puts it: NMDP's registry "is the fundamental go-to tool for any transplant-center search department."
The organization has reduced the time to transplant by 15%, using an online hub that helps keep donors and recipients on track during the steps before transplantation. (Each day cut from the process increases a patient's survival odds.) Jones has also added new matching algorithms to improve search accuracy. And NMDP has embraced technology in other ways too. Its urgent need for donors has led it to pursue social-media-fueled donor-recruitment campaigns with groups such as 100K Cheeks and Do Something. The efforts have increased annual donations by up to 60% and have boosted NMDP's access to 18.5 million candidates. "The ongoing growth and viability of the registry," Jones says, "give people hope."
Photograph by Richard Fleischman