Be The Match finds quality partner in SQS

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman September 13, 2018
In the fight against blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, delivering high-quality software to match patients with donors of bone marrow and blood stem cells is a top priority for the National Marrow Donor Programme.

Marrow Donor Day logo
This Saturday, 15 September 2018, is World Marrow Donor Day (WMDD), an annual global drive to recruit potential bone marrow and blood stem cell donors to the fight against cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Over the past 30 years, Be The Match, operated by the Minneapolis-based National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), has been in the vanguard of this battle, managing the world’s largest and most diverse blood stem cell registry.

This registry connects 465 leading partners worldwide, including 180 transplant centers in the US and 53 international donor centers and cooperative registries. A global view is essential: according to the organizers of WMDD, over 50,000 patients per year look for a matched donor outside of their immediate family and nearly half of those who successfully find a donor find them in another country.

The process of matching donors, patients and transplant centres is a complex one and, with much of this activity increasingly happening via digital channels, Be The Match relies on a small team of in-house developers to deliver a steady stream of new software releases and updates to keep the registry and related applications up and running. The effort to ensure that software meets strict quality standards, meanwhile, is led by Quality Assurance Manager Michelle Nyamushanya. As she explains:

We need to be sure that we are delivering quality systems that support the whole organization, from applications that help us match donors to patients, to applications that facilitate the supply chain in terms of getting patients the stem cells they need. There are a lot of quite complex processes happening here and the link between quality software and patient outcomes can never be underestimated.

A joint effort

Nyamushanya has a team of 8 QA specialists at her disposal, but since the Be The Match programme has grown and become increasingly more digitally focused, there’s been more work than this team can handle alone. For the past two years, Be The Match has worked with quality assurance specialist SQS, to which it outsources some of that work. The benefits, she says, have included access to a wider scope of QA skills:

We’re not a QA house - our mission as an organization is to provide patients with the stem cells they need. To do that, we need to provide QA service to the organization much faster than in the past and for a much wider scope of applications. By working with SQS, the burden is lifted and we’re able respond quickly as new projects come up.

But it goes beyond simply providing us with access to extra staff, because SQS is a specialist in this field, so they know about and understand new technology trends and new approaches in QA. This is information they pass onto us, so it’s helping to transform the way we handle QA in house. Just like in most aspects of life, having an outside person give their perspective can be incredibly valuable, because they point out your blind spots and give you a wider view of things.

A wide range of projects

Over the last two years, engaging with SQS has been particularly valuable in terms of updating, rewriting and extending the code that underpins the Be The Match registry and automating testing processes that used to be handled manually.

More recently, the collaboration has focused on two specific projects. The first is the development of MatchSource, an externally facing platform that Be The Match provides to transplant centers, to keep them informed and up-to-date on how the process of matching their individual patients to donors is progressing. This project is still underway, but SQS is helping with quality testing of the new system’s individual components.

The second is Secure ESB, a project that went live this summer. This was an effort to ensure that internal system-to-system communications are completely secure, so that patient and donor information is completely protected, in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Again, SQS was involved with the QA effort here. Says Nyamushanya:

The transformation that is going on in-house is to develop software systems and applications that meet our wider strategic plan to innovate and grow, to simplify our processes and to be there when patients need us. Quality of systems and accuracy of data is crucial to us, because patient outcomes are really dependent on getting the best donor matches for them. What this means it that the underlying matching rules in our software have to be incredibly accurate so that we can give the right patient the right cells. As a result, thorough validation of these systems is crucial to our digital transformation.


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