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Tim Hanner: Supporting the Dialysis PATIENTS Act, an opportunity to improve renal care

Those who meet me may think I am a regular guy and perhaps even in good health for someone my age. What they don’t know is that I’ve survived a rare kidney disease, tuberculosis, dialysis treatments, and a kidney transplant.
My health journey has been tumultuous to say the least.

Thirteen years ago I was offered the position to be the next Superintendent of the Kenton County School District. I was thrilled and could not wait to begin the role I had dreamed of having since my earliest days as an educator. Sadly, the excitement was quickly and unexpectedly overshadowed by bad news about my health. 
It turned out I had an exceptionally rare form of kidney disease — focal sclerosis. When my physician told me I needed to be on heavy medication to try to slow the progression of the disease in an effort to preserve my kidneys, I was in shock. Thankfully, the medication enabled me to carry out my role as superintendent for a full five years before I was no longer able to carry out the day-to-day functions of my position. I had to take early retirement and was eventually forced to go on dialysis when my kidneys completely failed. At that point, I did not know if it would be realistic for me to have a career while adhering to such a demanding and physically exhausting treatment schedule.

Tim Hanner

Nevertheless, I decided I would pursue another dream of mine: founding an educational non-profit to assist students in pursuing their interests, passions and talents with the help of meaningful adults. With my dialysis schedule, I did not know if it would be possible. 
Thanks to the exceptional, seamless care coordination between doctors and social workers at Christ Hospital and my dialysis center, I was able to receive all treatment in one place -— my clinic even encouraged me to host meetings with my staff during treatments. This arrangement allowed me to fulfill my dream of launching and managing my non-profit, NaviGo.

Sadly, my case is the exception, not the norm, and most patients don’t benefit from the same degree of flexibility.
Most dialysis patients are forced to go to from place to place to receive care -— something that’s incredibly difficult when you’re already sick and weak. Physicians and social workers tend to operate in silos, relying on patients to communicate their care needs with the various members of their provider team.
Fortunately, Congress is currently considering legislation to ensure every dialysis patient has the opportunity to receive coordinated, holistic care as I did. The Dialysis PATIENTS Act is a completely voluntary program that would make dialysis centers a one-stop-shop for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) care. From personal experience, I know giving patients access to this type of integrated care will significantly change the dialysis treatment experience for the better.
Managing complex health conditions is no easy task, with patients and caregivers keeping track of multiple medications and physician office visits, coordinating transportation and ensuring the medical bills get paid on time. The Dialysis PATIENTS Act gives these Medicare patients and their families access to all the treatment resources they need in one convenient location. 
Not only does this care model make life easier for ESRD patients and their families, it’s also proven effective in improving health outcomes. Value-based programs like the ones encouraged by the Dialysis PATIENTS Act have reduced hospitalizations by 30 percent. It’s no surprise that increased communication and care coordination among providers has this big of an impact on health outcomes.
After several months on dialysis, I was given the gift of a kidney transplant in 2013. Although my dialysis days are behind me, I vividly remember how difficult it was relying on these treatments to stay alive and comfortable. That’s why I’m now a fierce advocate for this vulnerable patient population.
Health conditions requiring dialysis are often complicated but passing this legislation doesn’t have to be. Every patient should have the right to quality, integrated care as I did, and I urge our representatives in Congress to support the Dialysis PATIENTS Act for the thousands of patients who deserve the very best and most effective renal care possible.
Tim Hanner is a former dialysis patient, Founder of NaviGo College and Career Prep Services and former Kenton County Schools Superintendent.

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One Comment

  1. Roger Auge II says:

    Dailysis treatment should be available all across Kentucky to every person whose kidneys are
    rotted by poisons like Mountain Dew. Stuff like that and other garbage that rots insides should be eliminated from all diets. I applaud Tim Hanner for his class efforts.

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