Patients using Facebook to find a kidney donor report a 30% success rate in getting potential donors to test for a match and 12% succeeded in receiving an organ.
The study, led by Alex Chang, MD, of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., researched Facebook pages for terms related to kidney donation over a 6 month period—91 profiles were used in their final analysis.
Status: Seeking kidney
Patients who successfully had donors tested were more likely to be white and have polycystic kidney disease. However, researchers noted that patients generally failed to explain the drawbacks of being a donor; only 5% of Facebook pages mentioned any risks and just 11% mentioned the costs associated with getting a transplant.
"It's hard to figure out who received a kidney and who was successful at using Facebook and how it was mediating their success," Chang says. "But it looked like some people were very successful in spreading the message by getting friends to post on their walls, finding random people in their networks to step up and be tested, and eventually receive a transplant."
Last month, Facebook urged its 161 million U.S. users to advertise their organ donor status on their profiles.
Chang says his research is needed because social engineering in the medical community "is going to explode. It's already happening" (Fiore, MedPage Today, 5/15).