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Hortonworks Customer

United Network for Organ Sharing

Life-Saving Organ Transplants

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the private, non-profit organization managing the United States organ transplant system. UNOS brings together hundreds of hospitals, transplant centers, organ procurement professionals, and thousands of volunteers.

The mission of UNOS is to advance organ availability and transplantation by uniting and supporting communities for the benefit of patients through education, technology, and policy development. Put simply, UNOS exists to enable timely, life-saving organ transplants.

The Organ Deficit

Nearly 31,000 organs were transplanted in the United States in 2015 alone. Even with this success almost 120,000 people are still on the transplant list, and every year more than 50,000 people are added to this list.

UNOS matches organ donors with organ recipients. Alex Tulchinsky, Chief Technology Officer of UNOS, describes his organization as the of organ matching. He stresses that UNOS is the critical component of a no-fail system.

When an organ becomes available, the race is on. Organs have a very short life span outside of a human body. Kidneys, for instance, can only survive for 48 hours before they must be transplanted. Hearts and livers have even less time. UNOS must rapidly decide to whom an organ will be offered. Yet the decision is never as simple as looking at the top of a list.

The matching considerations are anatomical, administrative, and medical. The recipient’s blood type and the size of the organ must match a recipient’s specific anatomy. Administrative factors include the time that a recipient has been awaiting a transplant and the geographic distance between the donor and recipient. The medical urgency facing a candidate, the immune-system compatibility between the donor and recipient, and the age of the recipient are all factors as well.

From the very beginning, UNOS has been a data-centric organization. They have data on every organ transplant performed in the United States since October of 1987. However UNOS lacked an enterprise data warehouse (EDW). Their data analytics system was built on SAS, which provided analytics but was unable to merge disparate and large data sources, especially those with less structured or variable data formats.


We felt that Hortonworks offered more flexibility to leverage open source versus finding ourselves in a position with other providers that might lock us in. We didn’t want to lock ourselves into a proprietary solution.

Alex Tulchinsky, United Network for Organ Sharing,

Improving Upon Success

UNOS’ mission to advance organ availability is vast. UNOS leaders recognized Big Data as an opportunity to both better understand their results and improve upon them.

UNOS continually strives to improve how it fulfills its multi-pronged mission to:

  • Manage the national transplant waiting list

  • Maintain the database that contains all organ transplant data for every transplant event that occurs in the U.S.

  • Unite the transplant community and develop policies that optimize organ utilization and provide a fair chance for recipients regardless age, sex, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle or financial or social status

  • Monitor every organ match to ensure organ allocation policies are followed

  • Provide information to patients, family members, and friends

  • Educate transplant professionals

  • Educate the public about the importance of organ donation and transplantation

Why Hortonworks

When UNOS was considering its options for a Big Data solution, cost was of paramount concern.

UNOS is a private non-profit organization that runs the nation’s transplant system under a contract with the Health Resources & Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services. Less than 10% of its funding comes from the government. The rest comes from fees as transplant hospitals pay to register patients on the waiting list for an organ transplant.

Initially UNOS considered one of Hortonworks competitors, but quickly realized that the costs of that data solution could scale beyond their budget. With the help of xScion, a healthcare services firm specializing in Big Data solutions for enterprise operations, UNOS began looking at alternatives affordable enough for a non-profit organization on a limited budget.

According to Alex Tulchinsky, “We felt that Hortonworks offered more flexibility to leverage open source versus finding ourselves in a position with other providers that might lock us in. We didn’t want to lock ourselves into a proprietary solution.”

UNOS turned to Hortonworks for its open source approach to Big Data. This provided the flexibility to scale and to explore use cases that promised to transform UNOS’ processes.

How UNOS Teams with Hortonworks

Enhanced Reporting

One of the first use cases UNOS explored was how to improve the quality, scope, and timeliness of their Organ Offer Report for transplant centers and organ procurement organizations. Members use these reports to review the eventual outcomes of organs offered to waitlist candidates and their doctors.

By leveraging Hortonworks Connected Data Platforms and 100% open source Apache™ Hadoop®, xScion helped UNOS create a self-service reporting system for transplant centers and organ procurement organizations. Through interactive, Hadoop-based data analytics and visualization via Tableau, these transplant centers were given automated, detailed, and visually rich reports on all organ offers they received and the outcome if it was transplanted.

Moreover, the latency of producing this data was dramatically reduced from several weeks to days. UNOS is now working to reduce this time frame to only one day. This near real-time data can be represented in Tableau or the entire dataset can be downloaded quickly and securely.

These new transplant center reports have been widely heralded within the transplant community because they offer the opportunity for self-reflection needed to improve the efficiency of internal processes.

Big Data Warehousing

The data collected by UNOS is now retained within their data warehouse. They maintain this warehouse to provide dynamic and convenient access for doctors, hospitals, NGOs, and the U.S. government. The implications of access to this data warehouse are wide reaching.

UNOS’ data warehouse is providing doctors with a past and present look at patients and transplanted organs. This is giving them the information they need to make informed decisions in the best interest of their patients.

The Future of Organ Sharing

While UNOS has made tremendous gains with their data warehouse, they’re only getting started.

According to Alex, “We want to be able to correlate diverse sets of data to create a unified view of all historical data about patients and organs before, during, and after transplantation. This will give the donation and transplantation community more information into factors considered for organ transplants, which in turn will influence future transplantation policies and practices.”

UNOS sees many future opportunities to leverage HDP to provide that unified view and improve their processes and mission success.

Become an Organ Donor

Give the gift of hope! To become a life-saving organ donor, visit This website will give you information on becoming a donor.