THURSDAY, Nov. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Although their health depends on working technology, many kidney-failure patients on dialysis are not prepared for natural disasters or other emergencies, new research finds.
But the study from Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City found that giving dialysis patients detailed information about their medical history and treatment schedule could help improve their emergency preparedness.
"Hemodialysis patients are generally unprepared for natural disasters and there is a need to strengthen both patient and dialysis facility disease-awareness and preparedness to improve outcomes in natural disasters," said Dr. Naoka Murakami from Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
"Our survey showed a positive effect of being prepared through the distribution of a 'dialysis emergency packet,' and we propose that this be more conveniently located on a mobile electronic application," Murakami said in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.
Dialysis treatment removes waste, salt and excess water to prevent them from building up in people with kidney failure.
People on dialysis rely on water, electricity and transportation to get to their treatments, making them particularly vulnerable during emergencies or natural disasters.
The researchers examined the preparedness of adults receiving outpatient treatment at five dialysis centers in New York City during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The storm caused widespread power outages and deprived the centers of electricity.
The study found that dialysis sessions were missed by 26 percent of patients, while two-thirds underwent dialysis at another location.
Of all the patients studied, 17 percent reported becoming more prepared after Hurricane Sandy. This improvement was much higher in the centers that provided patients with an "emergency information packet" after the storm, the researchers said.
These packets contained detailed information on each patient's medications, dialysis schedule and other health issues plus contact information for other dialysis centers.
In a separate study, researchers at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., also investigated how prepared their dialysis patients were for emergencies. Although 60 percent of these patients thought they were ready for an emergency, the study found 80 percent were actually ill-prepared.
Half of the patients didn't have a backup plan or an alternate location to receive their treatment, the study showed. The vast majority of the patients, 95 percent, wanted to learn about how to prepare for an emergency, and nearly all thought receiving this information would be useful.
After doctors, nurses, dietitians and social workers reviewed topics related to preparedness with patients, the researchers found 80 percent of patients were more prepared.
"Emergency preparedness in dialysis patients was lacking, but they were willing to learn," said Dr. Anuradha Wadhwa, of the medical center, in the news release. "This study highlights that a multidisciplinary approach in an outpatient dialysis unit setting is feasible and effective in educating patients about disaster preparedness."
The findings of these studies were scheduled for presentation Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in Philadelphia. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services helps people on dialysis prepare for emergencies.