Nearly 120,000 men, women and children are currently listed as waiting for an organ transplantation on the UNOS, but with only 29,000 actually performed in 2012. It’s clear that the amount of patients waiting for organs far outweighs the amount that are available.
As a result of the lack of organ donors, researchers are always looking for new and increasingly inventive ways to recruit more donors. In particular, minority groups and children are especially poorly represented when it comes to organ donation and so the researchers’ main focus is on these under-represented groups. One of the quickest ways to reach such a diverse range of people is through social media which is becoming easier to access and utilise by the day.
Facebook is one of most frequently visited websites in the world and is quickly transforming into a platform for reporting and spreading the word about important causes or events.
In May 2012, Facebook teamed up with researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in order to allow users to make their organ donor status public on their profile. The researchers observed a nearly 21-fold increase in organ donors in just one day as a result with 13,000 new donors registering – as opposed to the usual 600 new registrations – in one day. The unprecedented increase in registrations demonstrates the immense power that social media holds over peoples’ lives and the way that this can be used to drastically improve the condition of seriously ill patients.
Many other sectors already make full use of social media as a marketing and advertising tool, but the medicine industry is only just beginning to scratch the surface. Doctors and other medical professionals must take their cue from other industries and begin to use sites like Facebook and Twitter to their advantage in order to inspire change in the general public and – potentially – save countless lives.