Jul 17, 2017

Now an algorithm-based system to facilitate organ transplants

BYPankaj Mishra

Aiming to ease the process of finding the right organ donors in India, a medical assistance startup has developed an algorithm-based system to facilitate donor exchanges for organ transplants.
“The algorithm is ready and available. The patient’s family has to submit the patient details and the pairing will be done. We are addressing liver patients first, as the requests from all over the country is in large numbers,” Ravi Virmani, CEO and founder, Credihealth, told IANS in an emailed response.
The Gurugram, Haryana-based company said it assists patients looking for organ-swapping services connect with the right doctor and hospital, and facilitates the exchange of relevant information relating to the procedure and cost.
For organs transplants, finding a donor may not always solve the problem as doctors need to ensure the compatibility of the donor with the recipient. In cases of incompatibility, the “swap donor” system could help.
In India, there are three different systems for living organ donation.
In “living near-related donors” category, only immediate blood relations — for example, parents, siblings, children, grandparents and grandchildren — are usually accepted as donors. Spouses are also accepted as living donors in the category of near-relatives and are permitted to be donors, according to the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO).
The second category is that of “living non-near relative donors” — relatives other than a near-relative of the recipient or patient. They can donate only for the reason of affection and attachment towards the recipient or for any other special reason.
“Swap donors” constitute the third category. In these cases, where the living near-relative donor is incompatible with the recipient, provision for swapping of donors between two such pairs exists, when the donor of the first pair matches with the second recipient and donor of second pair matches with the first recipient, according to NOTTO.
To facilitate organ swap services, Credihealth said it would collate a list of legal donor-recipient pairs across hospitals that do not have matching blood groups and connect eligible pairs for transplants based on an algorithm.
These donor-recipient pairs will be directed to the hospital of their choice and the hospital will carry out the necessary due diligence for the transplant procedure, the company said.
“This is just the first step which will eliminate the need for travel and save expense for the patient. Often the patients are not fit to travel, and if the first step is completed at the patient’s current location, this is a huge benefit,” Virmani said.
But how will this system work on the ground?
“Let’s explain this with an actual case. We had a patient request from Shillong (in Meghalaya) where the son was the legitimate donor but was not compatible with the father — the patient. We had a similar request from Guindy (in Tamil Nadu).
“Our preliminary information sharing of the pairing indicated a high probability of a swap. The families were connected by Credihealth and they then proceeded to the hospital and surgeon of their choice. The hospital then formally initiated the government guidelines-based approval process on conducting both the surgeries,” Virmani explained.
Credihealth, which offers the services to the patients for free and charges hospitals an annual subscription fee, added that it acts as a information provider for donor pairing and not a medical practitioner or as a specialist in donor pairing.
“It is the responsibility of the hospital authorities to seek the approvals. Our contribution is to provide the information to the patient family and the hospital via the Credihealth platform,” Virmani added.
Credihealth, which has 80 employees, said it is expecting a turnover of around Rs 18 crore in the 2017-18 financial year.

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Pankaj Mishra is a writer of FactorDaily.