Development of a Family-Centered Communication Tool for Kidney Health in Premature Infants: Qualitative Focus Group Study Using Human-Centered Design Methodology

J Particip Med. 2023 Jul 10:15:e45316. doi: 10.2196/45316.


Background: Premature infants are at increased risk of kidney-related complications, including acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD). The risk of CKD in prematurely born infants is underrecognized by health care teams and caregivers. Understanding how to communicate the risk of CKD to caregivers is essential for longitudinal clinical follow-up and adherence.

Objective: This study aimed to determine family caregiver attitudes toward kidney health and risk communication during a neonatal intensive care admission. We also sought to understand caregiver preferences for the communication of information surrounding the risk of CKD in premature infants.

Methods: We augmented standard qualitative group sessions with human-centered design methods to assess parent preferences and clinician perspectives. Caregivers recruited had a prematurely born child who spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana, and experienced AKI or another kidney complication, which put them at risk for future CKD. We used a variety of specific design methods in these sessions, including card sorting, projective methods, experience mapping, and constructive methods.

Results: A total of 7 clinicians and 8 caregivers participated in 3 group sessions. Caregivers and clinicians readily acknowledged barriers to and drivers of long-term kidney monitoring as well as opportunities for communication of the risk of long-term kidney disease. Caregivers' primary concerns were for both the type and depth of information conveyed as well as the time at which it was communicated. Participants emphasized the importance of collaboration between the hospital care team and the primary care provider. Participant input was synthesized into several prototype concepts and, ultimately, into a rough prototype of a website and an informational flyer.

Conclusions: Caregivers of premature infants are open to communication about kidney health during their neonatal admission. The next phase of this work will translate caregivers' preferences into family-centered communication tools and test their efficacy in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Keywords: acute kidney injury; chronic kidney disease; human-centered design; kidney health; neonates; patient-reported outcomes; qualitative research.