For over 10 years, I worked in the finance industry. There were many things I liked about it and I learned so much, but last year I made a drastic switch to the health care technology industry. You may ask why the big change? Why walk away from an industry that has so many financial benefits? The answer for me was family.
Recently, my family had to deal with some pretty serious health situations that made me reflect on how and where I was spending my time. Making the transition into the health care industry and to a company that is truly doing something meaningful, like improving patient care, was important to me.
For the last 3 years my dad has been on dialysis. Before he started, aside from knowing that he had to undergo a procedure that had to do with cleaning his blood, I had no idea what the world of dialysis entailed and the toll it takes on a person and their family. My dad’s situation led me to want to learn more about dialysis, the benefits of home dialysis, the latest technology, and how it can improve the lives of patients like my dad.
Through my dad’s experience, I got to see first-hand the toll it takes on a person and how it affects a family. The dialysis process is a huge time commitment. He was hooked up to a machine for 5 hours a day, at least 3 days a week. The wear on his body was pretty intense - he was wiped out after dialysis, so much so that it was hard for him to drive himself home afterward. Our biggest concern was that he could potentially fall asleep at the wheel.
All this made me wonder what, if anything, he could be doing to improve his quality of life? My research led me to home dialysis.
Before we talk about dialysis, let's talk about your kidneys and what they do
Your kidneys filter extra water and waste out of your blood to make urine, they help control chemicals and fluid in your body, help control your blood pressure, help keep your bones healthy, and help make your red blood cells.
When your kidneys don’t work the way they should, they allow waste and water to flow back into your bloodstream. Poor kidney function makes it harder for the rest of your body to work the way it should. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) occurs when kidneys are no longer able to clean toxins and waste from the blood and perform their functions to full capacity. This can happen over time or all of a sudden! Kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is when your kidneys fail. It means they have stopped working well enough for you to survive without dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Out of the approximately 100,000 people on the transplant waiting list, there are only enough kidneys for 20% of patients. That leaves 80% or 80,000 patients with kidney failure whose only hope for survival is dialysis.
Let’s look at some interesting and scary statistics
1) 1 in 3 American adults is at risk for kidney disease.
2) 30 million people or 15% of U.S. adults are estimated to have CKD (that’s 1 in 7 people). Most aren't even aware of it!
3) Kidney disease often has no symptoms in its early stages and can go undetected until it is very advanced.
4) According to the U.S. Renal Data System, in 2013, among fee-for-service Medicare patients, total medical costs were $50.4 billion for CKD (excluding ESRD), and another $30.9 billion for the ESRD patient population.
In my research, I learned that recently a couple of celebrities have spoken very openly about their struggles with kidney disease:
* Actor, Sarah Hyland (Haley of Modern Family), discussed in the December 2018 Issue of Self magazine both her physical and mental struggles with CKD.
* In October 2017, in an interview with Today, Selena Gomez opened up about the kidney transplant from her best friend that saved her life.
So what is dialysis?
Dialysis is a way to artificially clean the blood if your kidneys can't. It rids your body of unwanted toxins, waste products, and excess fluids by filtering.
There are two types of dialysis:
1) Hemodialysis is the most common - during hemodialysis, your blood travels through tubes from your body, through the dialysis machine, and back to your body.
2) Peritoneal Dialysis is done inside your body. The inside lining of your own belly (peritoneum) acts as a natural filter. Wastes are taken out by means of a cleansing fluid, which is washed in and out of the belly in cycles.
Where is dialysis done?
Dialysis can be done in two locations, either at a dialysis center, which is the most common, or in a home setting.
Compelling benefits to home dialysis:
- Better clinical outcomes and can be gentler on the body
- Quality of life benefits - less travel time and expenses, improved understanding, lower rates of depression, unemployment, and more overall flexibility.
There have also been some industry changes that are making it easier to do home dialysis:
- Medicare is now taking steps to make it easier.
- New machines are now more patient friendly and smaller.
- New technology is improving communication with the machines and the doctors.
- Telehealth - Congress is allowing for remote telehealth visits with a nephrologist under Medicare, providing even more flexibility.
How does pMD fit in?
pMD not only cares deeply about doctors, but also about patients. The care of a dialysis patient takes a team and pMD’s Care Coordination tools give care coordinators, nurse navigators, social workers, and specialists a way to share information. With the release of pMD’s video chat capability, providers are now able to connect with a patient from their home.
I’m happy to say that my dad is part of the lucky 20% that has received a kidney transplant and I’m lucky to work at a place like pMD that cares so much about patients.