The impact of patient education and psychosocial supports on return to normalcy 36 months post-kidney transplant

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IntroductionImprovements in immunosuppression, and expansion of immunosuppression coverage by Medicare now necessitate beginning to define success in transplantation from a holistic or whole person approach rather than the historical emphasis on patient and graft survival alone. In a new transplant environment, efforts will have to be made to redefine practice so that kidney transplant recipients are prepared for 10 or more years of life with a transplanted graft. Currently, 83% of transplanted patients will never return to work. The purpose of this study is to determine how targeted education and specific psychosocial supports affect the transplant patient's return to normalcy 36 months after kidney transplant. Normalcy is defined as age and socially appropriate activities for that patient.MethodsThis is a synopsis of a 1-year cross-sectional study of 51 patients who received kidney transplants in 1999 at or near their 36-month anniversary date. Thirty-six months was chosen because this is the date when most patients will lose their Medicare coverage for immunosuppression. In 1999, a multidisciplinary plan was initiated to restructure the transplant recipient evaluation process, such that education about kidney transplantation and expectations for return to normalcy were addressed at the initial ‘introduction to transplant session’. These measures were then consistently reinforced with each subsequent contact. At the second contact, written verbal plans for medication purchase and return to normalcy were identified. The team made a conscious effort to develop relationships with the recipients and their significant others, with the intention to better empower them to return to normalcy post-transplant. These measures (education and psychosocial support) were this study's independent variables. At 36 months, all patients were contacted by telephone and a 12-item questionnaire was administered. The questionnaire sought information about the study's dependent variables – employment and insurance status, pre- and post-transplant.ResultsIn this study, 44% of pre-transplant patients were non-disabled compared with 62% of transplanted patients at 36 months post-transplant (P = 0.06, Chi square). Non-disabled includes persons who are employed, homemakers, students, retired or otherwise involved in age and socio-economically appropriate activities. Pre-transplant, 23% of recipients utilized Medicare and Medicaid for health insurance coverage. At 36 months post-transplant, only 11 or 20% of patients were dependent on Medicare and Medicaid. Pre-transplant, 17 recipients had private insurance coverage vs. 23 patients 36 months later (P < 0.02, Chi square). Fifty-six per cent of the patients received a living donor transplant.ConclusionA targeted multidisciplinary programme of education and psychosocial support that emphasizes return to normalcy and non-disability, beginning with the first exposure to transplant and continuing throughout the first 6 months post-transplant, yielded high rates of return to normalcy for kidney transplant recipients.

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