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Royal Berkshire launches first-of-a-kind digital toolkit for patients with acute kidney injury

Royal Berkshire launches first-of-a-kind digital toolkit for patients with acute kidney injury
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Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) is a condition that affects 1 in every 5 people who are admitted to hospital as an emergency.
Often triggered by dehydration or infection, AKI occurs when a person’s kidneys suddenly stop working properly. This can range from minor loss of kidney function to complete kidney failure, and, in extreme cases, it can be more deadly than a stroke. Around 100,000 deaths are associated with AKI every year in the UK.

Ensuring that people with AKI are supported to understand their condition and how to manage it is crucial to improve their recovery outcomes. However, in a busy hospital, sharing accessible health information with patients can often prove challenging. 

To solve this problem, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust (RBHFT) has launched a new digital support programme for patients who have developed acute kidney injury. The first-of-its-kind programme, called ‘Kidney Essentials: AKI’, will now equip patients and their families with a better understanding of the condition and how to best manage their recovery.

Kidney Essentials: AKI is based on an avatar-led programme that was developed in collaboration with Cognitant (Kidney Essentials), following a successful pilot for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Accessible on-demand via smartphone, PC or in printed form, the programme uses 2D and 3D animations to explain AKI and address patient FAQs.

The content is available in English, Nepalese, Urdu, Punjabi, and Polish, with cultural adaptations to address the needs of patients from different backgrounds. The programme is expected to improve patients’ ability to self-manage their condition, and to help combat health inequalities that arise from low health literacy.

“Low health literacy is a major cause of health inequality”, said Dr Emma Vaux OBE, Consultant Nephrologist, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust“Many of our patients cannot understand or struggle to digest written information. This can be because of language or cognitive barriers, or because it is not culturally relevant. These digital packages of support are breaking down these barriers and enabling patients to be better educated, improving their health outcomes.” 

The feedback from the first patients to use the programme at RBHFT has been overwhelmingly positive. 100% of surveyed patients reported that they had a much better understanding of AKI after using the digital tools, and they were more confident in managing their condition.

“Being treated in A&E is already an unsettling experience and even more so when you are struggling to understand what has happened to you,” said Dr Vaux. “With these support packages, patients will be able to understand what has happened, and why, and be better equipped to stop it from happening again.”

Developed by RBHFT in collaboration with patient engagement specialists Cognitant, the digital support will now be made available to patients presenting with AKI. The packages are expected to deliver improvements to patient safety, enable better medication adherence, and reduce readmission to hospital.

“By improving patients’ understanding of what happened, and how to rehabilitate, our patients are more likely to make a full recovery. It also supports the prevention agenda, as patients are less likely to develop AKI in the future,” Dr Vaux said.

Alice Wood, Clinical Director at Cognitant, said“Nothing like this currently exists for patients diagnosed with AKI. So many patients are at risk of developing the condition, through polypharmacy and other comorbidities. That said, it can be prevented and cured, and enabling patients to self-manage is an important piece of the puzzle. I’m looking forward to seeing the solution continue to scale and cover more conditions and empower more patients”.

The digital support packages are the latest in a series of initiatives by RBHFT to improve patient outcomes. This tool will also be available to GPs as well as outpatient clinics in the near future.

Discover more about Cognitant

Cognitant, via their leading patient learning platform, Healthinote, provides people with personalised, accessible and trustworthy health information and digital services, empowering them to make more informed decisions about their care and to better self-manage, improving healthcare efficiency. The impact of Cognitant’s work is demonstrated through improved patient understanding, shared decision making, better adherence to treatment and self-care, supporting efficiency and cost savings to health services and better health outcomes.

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