LifeGift: On a Mission to Make Miracles
OpenInsight database helps improve organ and tissue recovery
Three-year-old Chance Wright wakes up with so much energy every morning, you'd never guess he's already had two heart valve transplants. Born with a congenital heart defect, he now zooms around just like any other kid.
When Melissa Blake became ill with severe flu-like symptoms, she was shocked to discover her life threatened at age 24 by an undiagnosed case of hepatitis B. Now, thanks to a liver transplant, she's living each day to the fullest.
And when Russ Hinman goes out in the community to talk about the value of becoming an organ donor, the 57-year-old heart recipient speaks with deep emotion of his gratitude for the teenage boy who saved his life.
Every day, an average of 56 people in the U.S. get a second chance at life by receiving a transplantable organ. Still, more than 5,000 people die each year while waiting for the organ they need.
It's the mission of the LifeGift Organ Donation Center to work towards the day when every person who needs a transplant can get one – and they're counting on Revelation Software to help them do it.
Turning Loss Into Life
Based in Houston, LifeGift is a nonprofit agency serving 109 counties in North, Southeast, and West Texas. Their work focuses on three things:
Jeff Orlowski, Managing Director of Tissue Services at LifeGift, says their biggest challenge is finding ways to increase donations. In the early days, their work was pretty simple. "We essentially went around to hospitals and said 'Hey, here we are – please call us when you have a donor.' And then we waited for the phone to ring." After a lot of waiting, Orlowski and his team knew they had to do more.
The LifeGift Database
About 10 years ago, LifeGift realized that to increase donations, they needed to employ the kind of sophisticated database marketing techniques that commercial enterprises use to target customers and increase sales.
Starting with Advanced Revelation, and later migrating to OpenInsight, they developed their own database application to track the entire donation process. "The database shows us where the donor referrals come from and the reasons they did or didn't become donors," Orlowski explained. "We can look at variables like who approached for consent, what was the timing of the phone call, where was the family when they were asked about donations? We track the donor's age, their medical condition, race or ethnicity, what language they speak – all those kinds of things.
"So as the donor process unfolds, we're documenting the whole thing. Then we can go back and analyze the data and identify where we can make improvements. That's how we target where we need to add staff, where we need new programs – whatever means are necessary to increase donations."
And it's working. Organ donations are increasing every year, and LifeGift has become one of the top five tissue recovery agencies in the country.
Revelation Essential for Success
Chuck Fielding, President of the Fielding Company in Houston, is the programmer who built the LifeGift database. "I've been doing software development since 1985, and the LifeGift database is as complex as it gets," Fielding said. "They have over 250,000 records going back to the early '90s of donors, recipients, and referrals. And each one of those records has anywhere from 40 to several hundred fields of data."
OpenInsight is perfect for such demanding work. "I've been exposed to several different programming tools," Fielding said, "but OI is definitely the one I prefer for database work. I just think the database side of it is light-years ahead of anything else, basically because of multi-valued fields. As a matter of fact, you can't get me to work on anything else!"
Fielding also appreciates the simplicity of using OI. "The programming language is very easy to use. I've tried to do database work with Visual Basic, but the commands you need just aren't in the language. In OpenInsight, one or two commands are all you need to read and write a record. With other applications, you could write for hours to do that one simple process – because it wasn't a programming language built with a database in mind."
OpenInsight's Real-World Practicality
Jeff Orlowski says they need to stay flexible, and OpenInsight makes that easy to do. "The database has definitely evolved. We find new variables that we want to track, and the health care environment has changed dramatically since this was first created. So the database continues to be refined as we go along."
"The whole process is dynamic," says Fielding, "and so the software must be dynamic too. If I had to shut down the LifeGift database server to make some changes, and then start it back up – that would be enormously inefficient, because the data is coming in at a constant rate. People don't expire or get sick on a schedule from 8:00 to 5:00. That's why there's a 24-hour call center. With OI, if I need to make an update, I can go in and it's done in a couple of hours."
Expanding to the Web
A major project underway at LifeGift is putting the database into a Web-configured environment. "We're starting to place our staff into key hospitals where they're visible every day, rather than waiting in the office for a call to go out and respond to a donor," Orlowski explained. "Doing that means our people need to access and enter data from remote locations. So we're having to reconfigure the database so they can dial-up through the Internet and do data entry or generate reports."
Fielding says OpenInsight makes it easy to move onto the Web. "Creating Web-based screens is no big deal with OpenInsight. You just click a button and instead of making a form, it makes an HTML page – and then you put it on your Web server. It's not quite that simple, but it's real close."
The Satisfaction of Saving Lives
Jeff Orlowski summed it up by saying, "There's nothing better than meeting a transplant recipient whose life was saved because of an organ donation – or meeting someone who's had a bone graft that kept them from having a limb amputated. It's a dynamite thing to know how powerfully we impact their lives and how important what we do really is. It's a good feeling."
At Revelation, we're proud to be a small part of it.