Social Networks Help Black Patients Obtain Kidney Transplants

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NASHVILLE—African-American patients with kidney failure are more likely to succeed in securing a donor and undergoing kidney transplantation if they have informational social support from their dialysis team and other mentors, according to research presented at the National Kidney Foundation’s Spring Clinical Meetings.

“Research overwhelmingly indicates that African Americans are less likely to successfully get kidney transplants, even allowing for differences in socioeconomic and insurance status, and patient preference,” explained Teri Browne, PhD, from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

When she spoke with these patients, she found that they often lacked information about how to get a kidney transplant. “Many patients said they talked to their doctor about it and wrongly assumed they were on a transplant list.”

To see if social networks could play a role in helping patients navigate the pathway to getting a transplant, Browne surveyed 228 African American patients, more than 90 percent of whom desired a transplant and had insurance that would pay for the procedure.

She found that patients who obtained information from dialysis teams and social networks were nearly twice as likely to be seen at a kidney transplant center, which in turn improves the likelihood that they will eventually be listed for a transplant.

“In regards to kidney transplant, an effective social network is made up of people who have had a kidney transplant themselves or know of someone who did—that way, they have information about how to get one. We know that getting a transplant is not an easy process, and requires much follow-up on the patient's part and may be confusing,” said Browne.

The researcher noted that new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services conditions for coverage for dialysis facilities mandate that dialysis centers have interdisciplinary teams in place for every patient. As a result, “social workers and other team members can incorporate relevant interventions to help patients remove barriers to getting a kidney transplant.”

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