VA, kidney groups expand test of app to better manage the disease

A new app to help individuals with kidney disease track daily eating habits, daily activities, medications and efforts to self-manage their disease is being tested.

The app, which will be freely distributed, is in beta phase testing. Development is being led by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Association of Kidney Patients and the American Society of Nephrology.

In February 2017, the VA sponsored an innovation summit on kidney disease and how to improve treatments and help patients better manage the disease, says Paul Conway, president of the American Association of Kidney Patients and a kidney disease patient for 37 years.

VA participation was important because the agency is looking for ways to engage patients and has the ability to encourage use of the app across large parts of the healthcare system. The VA and associations talked to their constituencies about tools they wanted to manage the disease, and respondents primarily indicated that they wanted apps for that purpose.

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The VA first tested the app, and it’s now available to patients in a beta phase that expands availability beyond veterans, Conway explains. “In the design phase, vets and non-vets were involved, and now we’re taking the app to a larger audience to see how it actually works.”

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Initially, the focus is on nutrition and using the app to help kidney patients improve their diet. “With good nutrition, you can have the disease and not be on dialysis, or forestall the path to dialysis,” Conway says. “What you put in your mouth can adversely affect the body.”

That’s particularly true for patients who don’t pay attention to their sodium and potassium intake, and the app’s educational content can get them back on track, Conway believes. “If you give the knowledge to patients, they will use it and manage themselves. The app helps them learn the importance of smart eating and activity levels.”

Overall, success of the app will depend on patient success stories, and the VA and associations will be using social media outlets to spread the word. “Success will mean patients are more engaged and demanding more information, and this app does it,” Conway concludes.

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