It's a high tech move aimed at alleviating a massive medical shortfall. Even though some 120 million Americans are registered as organ donors, there are still more than 120,000 people waiting for lifesaving transplants in the United States, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
“By working with Apple to bring the National Donate Life Registry to the Health app on iPhone, we’re making it easier for people to find out about organ, eye and tissue donation and quickly register,” said David Fleming, president and chief executive of Donate Life America, which operates the registry, in a press release. "This is a huge step forward that will ultimately help save lives."
For Apple chief executive Tim Cook, the issue is personal: In 2009 he watched friend and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs anxiously wait for a liver transplant.
"Watching and seeing him every day, waiting and not knowing — it stuck with me and left an impression that I'll never forget," Cook told the Associated Press.
Apple launched its Health app in 2014 to help users manage their health and fitness data, but it also includes a feature called Medical ID, which can help emergency first responders access information such as a person's medical conditions, allergies, and blood type — even if the iPhone is locked. In the new version, donor status can also be added to Medical ID.
Other tech companies have also tried to find ways to digitally encourage people to become organ donors. For example, Facebook has a feature that lets users share their donor status with friends and share links to sites where they can sign up to be an organ donor too. And there are standalone apps that can help you sign up, although they don't come pre-loaded like the Health app is on iPhones.
But if you're an iPhone user who doesn't want to wait for the software update — or an Android user — you can always sign up for the registry online at https://registerme.org/.