Luke Datson - OTA Clinical Lead

Man in a muted orange blazer is holding a happy baby

‘As a nurse, I’d found my little niche working behind the scenes on the logistical side of organ donation…and now as the Clinical Lead for OrganMatch, I find it rewarding to say that I’ve helped to move organ donation into the 21st century’ 

- Luke Datson

As told by Luke Datson, The Organ and Tissue Authority

I feel like I've followed in my father's footsteps. Dad used to work as a microbiologist in pathology, before transitioning into health IT and systems development. It’s almost exactly the path I’ve taken in my career, moving from almost 20 years of nursing work into my current role as a Clinical Lead for OrganMatch with the Organ and Tissue Authority. I think he’s quite proud. 

In 2018 I was asked to be involved as a subject matter expert in an emerging organ matching system called OrganMatch 

At the time, I’d been working in Donation Coordination roles with DonateLife since 2013 both in South Australia and New South Wales. I found my niche area working behind the scenes on the logistical side of organ donation in New South Wales.

With my background in Intensive Care Nursing and Donation Coordination, I joined the OrganMatch project to share my unique insights. I spent time working with developers to scope, build and test a new system that would go on to completely modernise and streamline the organ donation and transplantation process.

With the implementation of OrganMatch in 2019, we’ve optimised the way that organs and transplant recipients are matched today. Instead of a blood-in-blood matching that’s done in a laboratory, we now have a virtual matching system.

The old system from 1999 involved sending the donor’s blood to a laboratory where the recipient’s blood is stored. Technicians would essentially mix the blood in a test tube, and observe whether it sticks together or bounces off, to indicate whether the recipient was a good match or not.

OrganMatch is a computer-based program that now allows us to find a match virtually.

It’s one big system with three different portals that talk to each other. There’s the donation portal, the laboratory portal, and then the transplantation portal.

OrganMatch holds the blood type information and DNA information of recipients on the waitlist. When consent for organ donation has been provided by a potential donors family, OrganMatch will take the donor’s tissue typing lab results and the system runs a virtual match against the recipients in the system.

I was approached by the Organ Tissue Authority in 2022 to continue my work with OrganMatch and took on the role of Clinical Lead for the Organ and Tissue Authority. My main focus today is to work with our developers to make sure that the system we're building is effective followed by implementing the change in process to the clinicians it will impact.

With these new changes to the organ matching system, I’ve seen such an improvement in our process now that we’ve cut down the time it takes to find a match. Therefore, improving outcomes for all.

Because of the speed at which we can do these matches, we’ve decreased the amount of time that the donor is required to wait in the intensive care unit before going into the operating theatre, taking the pressure off families, and off the hospital.

Looking to the future, we’re excited to continue to innovate and move away from the old-school ways of manual documentation and sending emails to coordinate a donation. We hope to create a secure cloud-based system, where OrganMatch will be accessible anywhere as long as you've got a computer and have been approved for access, of course.

I find it rewarding to say that I’ve helped to move organ donation into the 21st century. In a way, I’m helping to save lives by doing work in the background, helping people I’ve never met, in a way they might not ever understand. I like that I can be a little silent partner in this process.

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