African American doctor and patient talking in office

Congress may improve access to integrated care for dialysis patients

(BPT) – More than 700,000 people in the U.S. suffer from end-stage renal disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure. These patients often cope with multiple chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. They may also have financial difficulties, which limit their ability to access preventative health care services. These patients must juggle multiple appointments, manage numerous medications and experience frequent hospital visits while struggling to navigate a complex health care system. Integrated care programs, like the Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act (PATIENTS Act) (H.R. 4143/S. 2065), offer patients support from a dedicated care coordination team and added benefits like personalized care planning.

The PATIENTS Act, a bipartisan bill recently introduced in Congress, aims to expand the availability of integrated care for Medicare dialysis patients. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of Medicare dialysis patients have access to integrated care. The PATIENTS Act is designed to deliver better care, better health outcomes and lower costs for Medicare ESRD beneficiaries receiving dialysis. For patients, this could mean fewer trips to the hospital, fewer unnecessary office visits and an improved quality of life.

As one of the most chronically ill patient populations in the U.S., those coping with kidney failure must receive dialysis therapy three to four hours per day, three times per week. Dialysis patients will benefit in many ways from increased access to high-quality, integrated care.

β€œI feel fortunate to have a team observing and supporting me daily,” said Francis Hogan, a DaVita dialysis patient with access to an integrated care program. β€œIt gives me confidence to better manage my condition.”

While integrated care has existed for many years, the PATIENTS Act provides an opportunity to transform health care for more dialysis patients and their loved ones. The PATIENTS Act builds on existing integrated care programs to provide a sustainable, scalable model that could work for many more dialysis patients.

The PATIENTS Act could offer access to additional benefits like:

* A nephrologist-led interdisciplinary care team

* Individualized care planning for patients and caregivers

* Preventative care and services to help keep patients out of the hospital

* Care coordination for services received outside the dialysis clinic

* Support and counseling before receiving a kidney transplant

Patients and health care providers like DaVita have joined together to urge Congress to take action. The PATIENTS Act has support from both Republicans and Democrats and is under consideration by Congress right now. Patients, caregivers and kidney care advocates can visit www.MyAdvocacyMatters.com to send Congress a letter of support.