TAMPA — Organ donor registration just got a high-tech boost from one of the most recognized devices in the world: the iPhone.
But that wouldn't have happened without the assistance of a national non-profit organ donor alliance. Chaired by Tampa-based executive Jason Woody, Donate Life America has been involved with Apple for roughly six months as the tech giant updated its health app for the iOS 10 operating system, which will be released this fall, according to both Woody and Apple. The project had been in the works for roughly two years after Apple approached Donate Life America about its interest in collaborating on the app.
Woody, who has also served as CEO for Tampa's Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research since 1996, said the collaboration would revolutionize organ donations in the U.S.
"This is huge, and the impact it will have on those waiting for lifesaving organ donations can't be overemphasized," Woody said. "In a matter of seconds, people will have the power to make these kinds of decisions right at their fingertips."
According to a 2015 report by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, a Chicago firm, roughly 94 million iPhones were in use in the United States. Nearly 130 million Americans were registered organ, eye and tissue donors as of 2016, Woody said, and the partnership between Apple and Donate Life America is sure to increase the number of donors across the country.
"Apple's mission has always been to create products that transform people's lives," Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "With the updated Health app, we're providing education and awareness about organ donation and making it easier than ever to register. … Together with Donate Life America, we're excited to deliver this new feature to iPhone users in the U.S. with iOS 10."
Previously all prospective donors had to register with their respective state department of motor vehicles. But now iPhone users can bypass that process, Woody said.
He cited Florida as having a "very strong" organ donor registry base, with roughly 50 percent of Floridians registered to be donors, he said. According to the Donate Life Florida website, there were 8,845,718 registered organ donors in Florida on Wednesday.
More than 120,000 Americans are currently waiting for organ transplants, Woody said.
"Every 10 minutes, a new individual is added to the national transplant waiting list," he said.
A complex set of standards must fall into place for organs to be suitable for donation. Age, blood type, and many more factors are considered before making a match and then organs still have the chance of failing after a transplant has been made. Because of these issues, the organ donor world is highly regulated at both the state and federal levels.
All Apple organ donor registrants using the Health app will be directed to registerme.org, produced by Donate Life America. The iOS 10 version with the new Health app is being released this week to software developers and soon after that to iPhone owners who have requested early access to a test version of iOS 10.
Woody also said that the death of Steve Jobs — Apple's former CEO and co-founder — in 2011 had a profound impact on Tim Cook, Apple's current CEO and former best friend to Jobs. Jobs received a liver transplant in 2009, but later died because of complications of a pancreatic tumor. It was widely reported that Cook offered part of his liver to Jobs.
"I can't help but thinking that struck a chord with Cook and this (app) represents the kind of commitment he and Apple have to this cause," Woody said.