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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The patient's decision: Data on dialysis facilities' outcomes

Roberta Wager went on dialysis in the early 1980s. "I had nothing, no frame of reference," for choosing a dialysis facility, she said.

But now, dialysis patients can have a much more informed choice. Today, ProPublica made available extensive information on the quality of dialysis facilities across the U.S., in an easily searchable database.

"It gives you a snapshot of what a clinic is about," said Roberta, a past president of the American Association of Kidney Patients who works as a nurse and patient educator at several dialysis clinics in Texas. "It should be the patient's right and the patient's decision to have [the numbers]….This is your life. Wouldn't you want to have everything in your favor?"

Almost 400,000 Americans depend on chronic dialysis to do what their failed kidneys cannot. Their number has grown swiftly over the past two decades, spurred by epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

Advice: Dialysis patients should look up the outcomes of local facilities on the database, interview current dialysis facility staff, tour the facilities, and gather information about staff members' experience level and turnover rates.

Read another dialysis story from this blog, or read ProPublica's full story by Robin Fields.

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