Apple is adding an organ donor sign-up option to the Health app in its upcoming iOS 10 operating system on iPhones to encourage more people to sign up as organ, eye and tissue donors.
The new capabilities will be included in iOS 10 under an agreement with nonprofit Donate Life America, which will add registered donors to the National Donate Life Registry, which matches donors with individuals who are awaiting organ, eye or tissue transplants. The iOS 10 operating system is still under development and will be available as a free download to iPhone users this fall.
The deal marks the first time that Apple has included national donor registration capabilities through its devices, the company said in a July 5 announcement.
"On average, one person dies every hour in the United States waiting for an organ transplant because the demand for lifesaving transplants far exceeds the available supply of organs—and one donor can save as many as eight lives," David Fleming, the president and CEO of Donate Life America, said in a statement. "By working with Apple to bring the National Donate Life Registry to the Health app on iPhone, we're making it easier for people to find out about organ, eye and tissue donation and quickly register. This is a huge step forward that will ultimately help save lives."
Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said he became sensitized to the issue of organ donations when his friend and former boss, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was waiting for a donated liver in 2009, according to a July 5 story by The Associated Press.
"Watching and seeing him every day, waiting and not knowing—it stuck with me and left an impression that I'll never forget," Cook told The Associated Press in an interview. Jobs died two years after the transplant, of complications from pancreatic cancer.
More than 120,000 Americans are currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant—and every 10 minutes, a new individual is added to the national transplant waiting list, according to Donate Life America. Without preregistration for organ donations, family members are left to make the decision about donation in what is often the worst moment of their lives, the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one, the group stated.
The Apple Health app on the iPhone, which debuted in 2014, gives users a wide range of health and fitness data all in one place, including Medical ID, which makes critical health information available in case of emergency to first responders and is accessible from the iPhone lock screen. Medical ID can display categories like medical conditions, allergies, medications, blood type and emergency contacts.
Organizers are hoping that the donor capabilities in the Health app will bring an increase in donor registrations, especially with young people who are big users of mobile devices.
"Younger Americans are not registering at the same rate as they have in the past," Fleming told the AP. On an average day, about 22 people who are awaiting transplants die because organs are not available, he added.
While iOS 10 won't be available for downloads until the fall, a test version is available now to registered developers and a beta version is expected to be released in July. Apple is cautioning that the early versions of iOS 10 may not include all the features that will be in the final version when it is eventually released, according to an earlier eWEEK story.