Some people with kidney failure think that dialysis is their only option. But if they learned more, many might pursue kidney transplant.
“Research has shown that, overall, patients who receive kidney transplants live longer and have better quality of life than people who stay on dialysis. However, many dialysis patients don’t know this,” says Amy Waterman, PhD, a Washington University social psychologist at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Transplant Center.
To help more dialysis patients make informed decisions, she developed an educational program, Explore Transplant.
In a randomized control trial, dialysis patients at 10 centers who participated in Explore Transplant had improved transplant knowledge and were more likely to pursue transplant than patients at 10 control centers. Explore Transplant won a 2008 Quality-of-Care award from The North American Transplant Coordinators Organization (NATCO).
During the Explore Transplant program, dialysis patients watch videos sharing stories of how other kidney patients made their transplant decision. The Explore Transplant video program won a Telly Award in 2008. “It’s exciting when a patient watches a video and says, ‘I want more freedom to travel or to be around to watch my children grow up. How can I make that happen?’” says Waterman. “Then, I can get to work as a transplant educator.”
Using videos, brochures and discussion with an educator, patients learn what it would be like if they were a kidney recipient. They also discuss how they could find living donors. Health professionals in the videos answer common transplant questions. Dialysis patients often take the videos and Explore Transplant brochures home to share with their family members and friends.
“At the end of the program, some patients decide to pursue transplant, and some don’t,” says Waterman.
“But either way, they have made an informed choice that is right for them.”
Explore Transplant was designed for use with patients at any dialysis center, whether urban or rural, hospital-based or freestanding. Waterman is currently educating providers in over 300 dialysis centers about how to use this program with their own patients.