Educate, Encourage, and Empower: Helping Improve Quality of Life and Nutrition for Patients with Kidney Disease

September 25, 2017
Benner, Debbie
MA, RD, CSR, Vice President of Clinical Support and Patient Alignment, DaVita Inc.
Colman, Sara
RDN, CDE, Manager, DaVita.com Nutrition, DaVita Inc.

Today’s fascination with food, cooking shows, and celebrity chefs speaks to the allure and importance of food in our daily lives. We equate food with nourishment, but it may also contribute to poor health—as seen in the rise of such chronic diseases as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Food as medicine is part of the treatment plan for many of these diseases. People with chronic disease who require specialized diets face the challenges of applying dietary restrictions to improve and manage health while still enjoying food. These restrictions have an impact on daily food decisions, family meals, the ability to eat while away from home, and getting sufficient nourishment without exceeding prescribed food limitations.

One in seven adults in the U.S. has chronic kidney disease (CKD).* DaVita Kidney Care provides dialysis treatment to over 190,000 people in the U.S., where nearly a half-million end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients are undergoing dialysis.

CKD and ESRD patients have unique challenges related to diet and nutrition management. They must eat in a way that focuses on components not typical with an ordinary diet. Balancing minerals including sodium, potassium, and phosphorus; eating the right amount of protein; and controlling fluids are central parts of a kidney diet. As a patient’s condition progresses through the five stages of CKD, these nutrient requirements change. To further complicate their situation, many patients have additional diseases that require diet modifications, and often the two conflict. These challenges can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life and meal enjoyment.

DaVita recognized this dietary pain point for current dialysis patients and identified that the need for dietary assistance also existed in the CKD community. DaVita had the opportunity and ability to provide online resources to both audiences through its davita.com website. The team set out to create tools and resources for patients and their family members, caregivers, and healthcare team members who might provide these resources to patients without internet access. As the increased use of mobile devices has expanded access to the internet, DaVita has updated its website to a mobile-optimized platform so the content and tools can be accessed on all devices. The results of these efforts included online tools, recipe ideas, educational videos, dietian blogs and educational materials.

In 2007, DaVita developed DaVita Diet Helper™, a free online tool created to help kidney patients with meal planning and nutrient tracking. Unlike most common diet trackers, this tool is based on protein and minerals that are specific to kidney patients’ needs and that aren’t generally included in other diet and nutrition offerings, nor are they available on food labels. Enhancements including a fluid tracker and dining-out guide have contributed to the value of this tool. DaVita leveraged its dedicated renal dietitian resources to develop the below suite of recipe, diet, and nutrition tools that can be used to help patients and caregivers manage complex diet and nutrition needs.

  • DaVita Diet Helper™ online meal planner and tracker
  • DaVita’s Today’s Kidney Diet online cookbook collection
  • Kidney-friendly recipes (1,000+) for CKD, ESRD, and diabetes
  • Kidney Diet Tips blog
  • Health portal for DaVita dialysis patients with nutrition-related labs and messaging
  • Diet and nutrition articles
  • Nutrition games and quizzes
  • Discussion forums
  • Recipe and nutrition videos

The availability of online tools and resources over the past decade has brought recognition to DaVita as a primary and trusted source for kidney disease education. Many of DaVita’s dietitians nationwide use the website as a key resource for their dialysis patients. Other dietitians who specialize in kidney care, as well as community-based dietitians who care for patients with kidney disease, also can share these robust resources with their patients.

DaVita has helped kidney patients better understand their diets and tackle food challenges. The positive impact on patient quality of life and clinical data, both observed and through patient testimonials, continues to drive DaVita’s dedicated focus to educate, engage, and empower kidney patients and their loved ones.

*Adults ages 18 and older. Source: 2017 CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention.