Home dialysis: towards a better quality of life for patients

  • Posted on 12.07.2016

Home dialysis: towards a better quality of life for patients


Dr. Virpi Rauta

Nephrologist, Helsinki University Central Hospital


What is your day-to-day work like? How do you help improve or save people’s lives through your work?

I am in charge of a home dialysis program in Helsinki. In my department, we take care of the education and training of patients to prepare them for therapy.

In Finland, we have been active in this field from the early 80s. There are about 500 dialysis patients in our hospital district, 35% of whom are treated at home. We believe that home therapy is best for the patients. It does not only provide the best quality of life and outcomes, but it also allows for the treatment to be more personalised. It is in fact a win-win-win: for patients to be able to recover at home and get the best treatment, for healthcare professionals to be able to deliver the best care with limited staff and for society in terms of costs to the economy and healthcare.

From early on, patients are able to choose the treatment best suited to them, thanks to the information available to them. It is important to not only provide this information to the patients, but also to their family.

What do you think are the top three challenges facing the healthcare system and your profession in particular?

One of the biggest challenges is the ageing population and the growing number of patients with end-stage renal failure. In the meantime, resources such as money or healthcare staff are lacking in order to balance the demands on the system. Finally, we should be up to date about technological and medical developments in our respective fields. The world is changing and we need to be able to adapt to these changes and understand the new demands.

What role do you see for medical technologies to address these challenges?

In dialysis most machines are designed for hospital use. We need smaller, easy to use and reliable machines, to allow for patients to be treated at home. Preferably these machines would also be environmentally-friendly (eg. use less water).

If you had one ask to the industry, what would it be?

I would ask for the industry to take up a bigger role in the health delivery chain for home therapies. Machines are only a small part of the therapy. It would be great to have ready-to-use, all-in-one packages for patients. This would relieve the burden off the healthcare professionals and it would help them focus on what really is their role: diagnosing patients and continuing education to offer them the best available therapies.

If you had one ask to the decision-makers, what would it be?

It would be to let everything happen as easy and simple as possible and reduce obstacles. Finland is in a relatively good situation, but even so, we would need incentives and other, non-professional support for patients for them to be able to be treated at home, even at an older age.

What would you want to see/is your vision for the care of your patients in the future and healthcare overall?

We should give every patient freedom to choose the care they want. Treatment should be individualised and eHealth infrastructures should be in place (eg. remote clinics, cloud services) to allow the possibility for patients to be staying at home as long as possible.

This article was  featured during MedTechWeek, an European-wide initiative that aims to show how medtech can support people throughout their everyday lives, from diagnosis to cure. More details: http://www.medtechweek.eu.  

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