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The coronavirus outbreak puts dialysis patients at risk

(Photo by Alex Proimus via flickr/Creative Commons)

(Photo by Alex Proimus via flickr/Creative Commons)

While most people with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, dialysis patients like me who have a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to serious complications from the highly contagious virus. Now more than ever, immunocompromised patients with kidney disease must have coordinated medical care to ensure they are receiving the best health care possible from all of our medical providers.

I know how well this works first hand because I am part of a coordinated care pilot program. Because of my multiple conditions, I see a nephrologist, a cardiologist, a primary care doctor, and a vascular surgeon, among others, and they work very much in conjunction with one another as part of this pilot program. My doctors work together to treat my entire body instead of one symptom at a time. Having a central clearing house has been invaluable to my health.

As an advocate now for other dialysis patients, I’m working to help ensure all patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) have access to high-quality coordinated care like I do. Under the current system, care differs greatly depending on where a patient lives. The reality is that care for some dialysis patients is much better than others.

After my diagnosis years ago, I turned my lifestyle around, which has helped me manage my care better. I eat a well-balanced diet, exercise daily, and I’ve even competed in two Olympic distance triathlon relays, as well as the Tour Davita, a three day, 230 mile cycling ride, in support of a better health care system. I consider myself lucky in this regard. But there are many other dialysis patients who suffer from pre-existing conditions that impact their energy levels, making it more difficult for them to keep track of all of their various medical records and prescriptions.

Coordinated care legislation would make a tremendous difference in the lives of these dialysis patients by giving doctors a framework to access their complete medical records. This holistic, focused approach would improve the quality of care for hundreds of thousands of dialysis patients.

Congress can make this sort of personalized care a reality for patients across the country by passing the BETTER Kidney Care Act that would implement a comprehensive care coordination framework. Similar legislation introduced in previous years garnered widespread bipartisan support with over 200 sponsors. As Congress continues to address COVID-19, I would encourage Representative Greg Stanton to support care coordination and the BETTER Kidney Care Act to help protect high-risk dialysis patients now and in the future.

Jeff Needham
Phoenix

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