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Karen Woo, MD

Clinician, Researcher

“Patients with kidney failure are so overwhelmed by the treatment and the options and the frequency of their interaction with the healthcare system,” says Karen Woo, MD, PhD. “It’s all so overwhelming that they get to a point where they’re frozen and struggle with making care decisions.”

Woo’s research is in dialysis vascular access and what kind of treatments patients receive for their endstage kidney disease. However, a new guideline from the @National Kidney Foundation is changing how she approaches clinical care.

That guideline is called the Endstage Kidney Disease (ESKD) Life-Plan. It states that patients and their multidisciplinary care teams should make a plan for the patient’s treatment for their endstage kidney disease for the rest of their life.

“It’s basically the opposite of what we’ve been doing in clinical care up to this point,” says Woo.

Woo has a grant to work on the implementation of the ESKD Life-Plan. She started by interviewing patients and clinicians.

“Patients tell us that doctors don’t listen to them, doctors don’t care about what they want — they don’t even have a way to tell doctors what they want because doctors don’t always ask,” says Woo. “They’re not used to their priorities being valued.”

After hearing that, Woo searched for resources to help address these needs. That’s when she found Patient Priorities Care.

Woo and her team adapted PPC’s health priorities identification resources to fit her purpose and brought it back to the original patients she interviewed.

“They universally loved it,” says Woo. Patients were given the option to work through their health priorities on paper or online at MyHealthPriorities.org and show it to their doctor. “That way, they could start a conversation about what’s important to them.”

Patients commented, “If this had been available to me back then and the doctors had used it when I was making my decisions, it would’ve been so much better.”

These resources will be included in a larger guide for patients to create their ESKD Life-Plan. It will be made widely available in the coming months.

“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to implement in an office, and I think a lot of people aren’t aware of it,” says Woo. “We thought the easiest way to spread awareness would be to empower patients.”

“If we go back to what’s fundamentally important to them and we work through it from that standpoint, then we as clinicians are really serving the patient. We’re helping the patient to make the decision that’s right for them versus the decision we think they should make.”

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