The increase came in May 2012 when social-networking giant Facebook created a way for users to share their organ donor status with friends and provided easy links to make their status official on the websites of state motor vehicle departments, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine reported Tuesday.
"The short-term response was incredibly dramatic, unlike anything we had ever seen before in campaigns to increase the organ donation rate," Andrew M. Cameron, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said. "And at the end of two weeks, the number of new organ donors was still climbing at twice the normal rate."
Over the last 20 years, the researchers said, the number of donors has remained relatively static while the number of people waiting for transplants has increased 10-fold.
On May 1, 2012, the day the initiative began, 57,451 Facebook users updated their profiles to share their organ donor status, and that first day saw 13,012 new online donor registrations, representing a 21.2-fold increase over the average daily registration rate of 616 nationwide, the researchers said.
"If we can harness that excitement in the long term, then we can really start to move the needle on the big picture," Cameron said. "The need for donor organs vastly outpaces the available supply and this could be a way to change that equation."