The University of Alabama at Birmingham health system has launched a three-year trial testing the efficacy of a telemedicine model for patients receiving peritoneal dialysis.

The trial will enable some of UAB Medicine's PD patients who live outside the system's home county to eliminate some of their trips to Birmingham for monthly checkups.

Patients instead will speak with their UAB Medicine physician via videoconference from their hometown county health department, where their blood will be drawn and sent for lab testing as part of the “virtual visit”. Funded by a $180,000 grant from Baxter International, the three-year telemedicine trial seeks to determine if this arrangement produces greater quality of life for PD patients without compromising outcomes.

"Unlike the multiple weekly clinic treatments involved in traditional hemodialysis, PD patients enjoy the relative freedom of nightly home therapy, so the use of telemedicine for the required monthly physician evaluation promises to further ease the burden of managing their kidney disease," UAB officials said.

Roughly 40 patients will participate in the telemedicine trial for each of its three years. They will complete six monthly face-to-face visits and another six months of telemedicine evaluations for comparison. Eric Wallace, M.D., director of the UAB Medicine PD program, said he expects the first remote trial sites up and running by July 2015.

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