Economist Richard H. Thaler once jokingly urged Steve Jobs to create an app for organ donation. App developer Raymond Cheung has done just that with an app called Donate Lives

The app has been downloaded fewer than 1,000 times, according to news reports. The application is basically a shortcut to various Web pages for donation registration. The application's strength, according to the New York Times, is its ability to wade through the nearly 200,000 results that pop up from a Google search for "organ donation registration," suggesting that someone with an Apple device could register while waiting in line at the grocery store. 

The story describes the app's thoroughness in collecting personal information and guiding users toward the appropriate U.S. state or local registry. The Times writer researched the safety of the information transfer through the app, revealing that the information given is "encrypted, as is any donor information stored on [organ procurement registry]'s servers."

One handy feature of the app allows users to specify whether they are donating their organs for research and also update their donation status on their driver's license, but the article mentions that registering with a local organization does not trump registration with the state via the Department of Motor Vehicles. Author Bob Tedeschi questioned whether the cross-registration would affect patients at hospitals, asking, "What if the information stored with the state conflicts with the information I have to the local organ procurement organization?"

The story goes on to quote Donate Life America's executive director David Fleming, saying hospitals will follow a person's most recent instructions.

Tedeschi says that other altruistic apps, like those for bone marrow donation, are not as sophisticated as Donate Lives in that they don't work on all Apple devices or else charge users a fee. He mentions an app called iGive Blood, which costs $1 to download, stating that cost could deter people from downloading. The app currently tracks users' past donations and offers a reminder for their next donation, a service that Tedeschi thinks would reach more customers as a free app download. 

Medical organizations could to follow the lead of Donate Lives and develop thorough, online registration apps that work with all mobile devices.