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Emory launches new initiative to improve dialysis patient care

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Holly Korschun

Emory Healthcare nephrologists are piloting two new initiatives to improve the lives of dialysis patients across Georgia.

Emory Nephrology recently launched a telemedicine program to provide acute renal consults for hospitals in rural Georgia, including Taylor Regional Hospital (Hawkinsville) and Memorial Hospital and Manor (Bainbridge). These acute telenephrology consults are designed to care for patients with kidney disease in rural hospitals that do not have on-site nephrologists or in-house dialysis services. Prior to this initiative, patients in rural hospitals who needed dialysis or had kidney problems that required nephrology care would have to be transferred to other hospitals, often resulting in delay of timely care.

Sanderling Renal Services (SRS) provides telemedicine services in each of these hospitals, and Emory provides physician oversight and primary nephrology services via telemedicine in these hospitals. Emory clinicians and researchers are able to track rural health populations using SRS analytics. SRS also provides acute dialysis services to the rural hospitals under the guidance of Emory Nephrology. Participating Emory nephrologists include Drs. Janice Lea, Jason Cobb, Anees Quyyumi, Tahsin Masud, James Someren and Jose Navarrete.

“Emory Nephrology has never offered this service before, but we have very high expectations,” says Lea, medical director of the program and a professor of medicine in the Emory University Division of Renal Medicine. “It encompasses and advances Emory’s missions of patient care, education and research. If the pilot goes as well as we think it will, we plan to expand the telenephrology program to include more Emory faculty and additional locations.”

Emory Nephrology has also recently partnered with Emory Cardiology to provide echocardiograms to patients undergoing dialysis. An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound test that uses high-pitched sound waves to detect how well a patient’s heart is functioning. This partnership will help outpatient Emory dialysis clinics screen for cardiovascular disease in this high risk population and make treatment more convenient for patients. Knowledge of heart disease in dialysis patients will also lead to better dialysis care.

Every dialysis patient is recommended to have an echo within three months of starting treatment and then again at three-year intervals. Renal transplant and diabetic patients, as well as non-diabetic patients at high risk for heart disease, should be screened more frequently.

“Normally, patients have to schedule their dialysis and echo appointments separately, which can be pretty time-consuming,” says Lea. “When you perform them simultaneously, we’re talking about improved patient care, quality improvement opportunities and convenience. A lot of our patients undergo dialysis for several hours, several days a week. Any time we can give back to them is precious.”

With both the telenephrology program and their recent collaboration with Emory Cardiology, Emory Nephrology aims to enhance the care provided to dialysis patients and to increase access to medical specialty services.

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