The Advances of Telemedicine for Dialysis Patients
Article by Susan Baker
Telemedicine has evolved tremendously over the last several years. It has allowed patients who have limited mobility or chronic conditions, such as chronic kidney disease (CKD), to still receive care from doctors in remote, convenient locations. For this reason, telemedicine has become so important that it is now being considered by many hospitals and doctors’ offices around the world to enhance more lives and healthcare services both now and in the future.
CKD patients often require multiple dialysis treatments per week, depending on which stage they are in, which can influence a number of aspects in their daily life. One way CKD patients have been able to save money, time, and stress during their treatment is by taking advantage of new telemedicine options offered by health insurance companies.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the ability to diagnose and treat patients through telecommunications technology, such as phone or video appointments. Virtual options can take the place of in-office visits, consultations, and certain other clinical health services. With the growing accessibility of home dialysis treatment options, a number of CKD patients use telemedicine as a primary line of communication with their doctors and specialists.
How can telemedicine support CKD patients?
Nephrologists and kidney care clinicians have been able to take advantage of the technological advancements in telemedicine to support their patients in a variety of ways:
- Monitoring patients between appointments: Doctors and nephrologists can use telemedicine to keep track of a patient’s blood pressure, which can be measured from the patient’s home. They can also coach their patients on how to get the most out of their dialysis treatments in a virtual meeting. Not only is this more convenient for everyone involved, it has been shown to improve blood pressure maintenance in dialysis patients.
- Transferring information and resources: Telemedicine provides doctors and care teams with the opportunity to share important resources and information with patients virtually, as opposed to waiting for an in-person appointment. From tips for eating kidney-friendly foods and how to take medications correctly, to who to contact for support with home dialysis, telemedicine offers faster, more comprehensive solutions for both doctors and patients.
- Connecting with other doctors: Telemedicine technology allows a patient’s doctor to communicate easily with other specialists on their care team, such as a nutritionist, lab technicians, or their home dialysis nurse. This way, everyone has the more updated information and can contact the rest of the team easily in order to provide the best advice and care.
What types of care can be done through telemedicine?
- Traditional care — Most primary care physicians now offer telemedicine options for annual wellness exams, check-ups or other regular appointments. While patients may need to go to a clinic for lab work, technology provides most of the communication needed with a doctor, including virtual assessments, questionnaires and apps, and virtual visits.
- Mental health care — When patients are processing a CKD diagnosis or adjusting to life on dialysis, it can help to have some emotional support from a professional. Many insurance companies are now offering mental health care through their telemedicine coverage, in addition to your normal health and wellness visits.
- Supplementary care — Some insurance providers are also offering telemedicine coverage for supplementary health and wellness-related services, such as diabetes management, medical decision support, cardiac care management and chronic condition management. For CKD patients, these supplementary services may go hand-in-hand with dialysis treatment.
- Emergency care — Patients often have limited options when it comes to emergency care—an emergency room or urgent care center—both of which are rather expensive, especially if an ambulance is needed. With telemedicine, however, patients have 24/7 access to a doctor.
Telemedicine is broadening the horizons for doctors providing care to CKD patients. With the rapid growth in technology, combined with improved data and the innovative ways doctors are discovering to communicate with their patients, dialysis patients will soon be empowered to take charge of their health, and doctors will be able to provide more detailed care than ever before.
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