A model telehealth program can help provide kidney care to rural hospitals, according to a study presented at ASN Kidney Week 2016 November 15–20 in Chicago. Thirty-eight percent of community hospitals in the U.S. are designated as rural hospitals, and it is estimated that two-thirds of rural hospitals do not offer acute dialysis due to a lack of dialysis and/or kidney specialists.

Charuhas Thakar, MD, from University of Cincinnati, and his colleagues described the development of a telemedicine program that partnered Dialysis Clinics Inc. with Meadowview Regional, a rural hospital in Kentucky. Between January and April, they have treated more than a dozen patients (with >20 dialysis treatments) via the tele-nephrology program for conditions requiring medical, surgical, or critical care, and 67% of the patients were successfully treated and discharged from the rural hospital. The program now also provides 24/7 nephrology care other than dialysis to those patients with kidney and electrolyte disorders.

Read also: An inside look at the UAB home dialysis telemedicine pilot 

“This innovative patient-centered program plans to build a hub-and-spoke model for specialty care, and can be emulated nationally,” said Thakar. “Models need to examine clinical effectiveness and efficiency of tele-medicine in nephrology in both acute and chronic settings to reduce the burden of travel to satellite dialysis units for providers, and thus make dialysis and renal care available in more proximity to patients.”

Study: “Tele-nephrology: Delivering Acute Dialysis in Rural Hospitals via Telehealth” (Abstract 766)