Social determinants of health associated with hemodialysis non-adherence and emergency department utilization: A pilot observational study

Kamna S. Balhara, Lori Fisher, Naya El Hage, Rosemarie G. Ramos, Bernard G. Jaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Dialysis patients who miss treatments are twice as likely to visit emergency departments (EDs) compared to adherent patients; however, prospective studies assessing ED use after missed treatments are limited. This interdisciplinary pilot study aimed to identify social determinants of health (SDOH) associated with missing hemodialysis (HD) and presenting to the ED, and describe resource utilization associated with such visits. Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study with a convenience sample of patients presenting to the ED after missing HD (cases); patients at local dialysis centers identified as HD-compliant by their nephrologists served as matched controls. Patients were interviewed with validated instruments capturing associated risk factors, including SDOH. ED resource utilization by cases was determined by chart review. Chi-square tests and ANOVA were used to detect statistically significant group differences. Results: All cases visiting the ED had laboratory and radiographic studies; 40% needed physician-performed procedures. Mean ED length of stay (LOS) for cases was 17 h; 76% of patients were admitted with average LOS of 6 days. Comparing 25 cases and 24 controls, we found no difference in economic stability, educational attainment, health literacy, family support, or satisfaction with nephrology care. However, cases were more dependent on public transport for dialysis (p = 0.03). Despite comparable comorbidity burdens, cases were more likely to have impaired mobility, physical limitations, and higher severity of pain and depression. (p < 0.05). Conclusions: ED visits after missed HD resulted in elevated LOS and admission rates. Frequently-cited SDOH such as health literacy did not confer significant risk for missing HD. However, pain, physical limitations, and depression were higher among cases. Community-specific collaborations between EDs and dialysis centers would be valuable in identifying risk factors specific to missed HD and ED use, to develop strategies to improve treatment adherence and reduce unnecessary ED utilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalBMC Nephrology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 6 2020


  • Dialysis
  • Emergency department
  • Non-adherence
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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