A recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and the University of New Mexico demonstrated that virtual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively reduce symptoms in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients undergoing dialysis. The therapy showed promising results in alleviating common dialysis symptoms such as pain and low energy. The Technology Assisted Stepped Collaborative Care (TACcare) trial provided personalized CBT sessions through telehealth, leading to improved energy levels and decreased pain severity in patients. The intervention holds the potential to benefit diverse populations affected by CKD and dialysis.
New findings demonstrate the effectiveness of a virtual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) solution in alleviating symptoms among individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD) undergoing dialysis.
A collaborative study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and the University of New Mexico revealed that the inclusion of virtual cognitive behavioral therapy led to reduced severity of common dialysis symptoms, such as pain and low energy, among CKD patients.
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 35.5 million people in the United States, equating to over one in seven adults, are affected by CKD.
While dialysis serves as a life-saving treatment for severe forms of the disease, it often comes with various side effects that contribute to fatigue, pain, and depression.
Lead author Manisha Jhamb, MD, an associate professor in the Renal-Electrolyte Division at the Pitt School of Medicine, emphasized the significant burden and transformative impact that dialysis imposes on patients and their families. She stated, “Many people are unable to work or enjoy life because of the demands of the treatment and the way it affects their physical and mental health.”
To enhance the quality of life for CKD patients undergoing dialysis, Jhamb and her colleagues developed the Technology Assisted Stepped Collaborative Care (TACcare) trial. This program offers 12 weekly sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy through telehealth, allowing patients to set personalized goals and customize their care based on individual needs. The study aimed to assess the therapy’s effectiveness in mitigating dialysis side effects.
Working in collaboration with Mark Unruh, MD, a professor in the Division of Nephrology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Jhamb recruited 160 dialysis patients from Pennsylvania and New Mexico who were experiencing noticeable symptoms. The average age of the participants was 58, with 28 percent identifying as Black, 13 percent as Native American, and 18 percent as Hispanic.
To account for potential bias resulting from increased attention due to telehealth, a comparison group participated in weekly education sessions delivered via telehealth.
Comparatively, the TACcare group reported a 6 percent increase in energy levels and a 10 percent reduction in pain severity, surpassing the improvements observed in the control group. These positive effects persisted for six months after the therapy. Additionally, although modest, the researchers noted improvements in depression.
The study’s diverse population suggests that this intervention could be effective across various demographic groups.
Jhamb expressed optimism about the results, stating, “These findings are truly promising and align with similar interventions for cancer patients. Until now, our recommendations for addressing pain involved analgesic medications, improved sleep, and exercise to alleviate fatigue, but these have not been entirely satisfactory.” Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of telehealth in enhancing patient outcomes.
A study conducted in August 2022 highlighted the positive impact of a comprehensive telehealth approach on patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. The researchers compared outcomes between patients receiving simple telehealth (telemonitoring and care coordination) and those receiving comprehensive telehealth (telemonitoring, self-management support, diet and activity support, medication management, and depression support). The comprehensive telehealth group exhibited reductions in hemoglobin A1C levels along with overall improvements in their health outcomes.