Eighty percent of kidney dialysis patients surveyed were not adequately prepared in the event of an emergency or natural disaster that shut down their dialysis center. But after receiving individualized education from a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, dietitians and social workers, 78% of these patients had become adequately prepared, according to a Loyola University Medical Center study.

Anuradha Wadhwa, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Nephrology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and colleagues, reported findings during the ASN Kidney Week 2014 meeting.

Patients with kidney failure rely on dialysis treatments to survive. The treatments, typically three times a week for about four hours, remove wastes and extra fluids from the blood.

Researchers surveyed 124 patients at a Loyola outpatient dialysis center. During dialysis sessions, patients were asked whether they:

  • Believed they were prepared for an emergency.
  • Had an emergency plan they had discussed with a family member or dialysis unit.
  • Knew of a back-up dialysis facility.
  • Were familiar with an emergency diet that is key to survival in the event of a missed dialysis session. The diet includes limiting fluid intake and avoiding potassium-rich foods.

Patients who answered yes to all four questions were considered to be prepared. But while 60% of the patients thought they were prepared for an emergency, the survey found that only 20 percent were actually prepared. However, 95% of patients were interested in learning about preparedness.

Following this initial survey, a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, dietitians and social workers discussed emergency preparedness while meeting individually with patients during dialysis sessions. Patients also were given educational materials and purple cards created by Kidney Community Emergency Response. The laminated, wallet-size cards contain emergency information, and are meant to be carried at all times.

The one-on-one education made a dramatic difference. A follow-up survey found that following the educational sessions, 78% of the patients were prepared for an emergency, and 99% said the emergency information they received was useful.

“This study highlights that a multidisciplinary approach in an outpatient dialysis unit setting is feasible and effective in educating patients about disaster preparedness,” Wadhwa said.

Co-authors of the study, all at Loyola, are Vinod K. Bansal, MD, FACP, FASN, a professor of Nephrology and medical director of Chronic Dialysis; Karen Griffin, MD, FACP, a professor of Nephrology; and Stephanie Pesenko, a graduate student.