Challenges in communication, prognostication and dialysis decision-making in the COVID-19 pandemic: implications for interdisciplinary care during crisis settings

Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2021 Mar 1;30(2):190-197. doi: 10.1097/MNH.0000000000000689.


Purpose of review: Using case vignettes, we highlight challenges in communication, prognostication, and medical decision-making that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic for patients with kidney disease. We include best practice recommendations to mitigate these issues and conclude with implications for interdisciplinary models of care in crisis settings.

Recent findings: Certain biomarkers, demographics, and medical comorbidities predict an increased risk for mortality among patients with COVID-19 and kidney disease, but concerns related to physical exposure and conservation of personal protective equipment have exacerbated existing barriers to empathic communication and value clarification for these patients. Variability in patient characteristics and outcomes has made prognostication nuanced and challenging. The pandemic has also highlighted the complexities of dialysis decision-making for older adults at risk for poor outcomes related to COVID-19.

Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for nephrologists to be competent in serious illness communication skills that include virtual and remote modalities, to be aware of prognostic tools, and to be willing to engage with interdisciplinary teams of palliative care subspecialists, intensivists, and ethicists to facilitate goal-concordant care during crisis settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care
  • Pandemics
  • Renal Dialysis
  • SARS-CoV-2