Captivating a captive audience: increasing participation in intradialytic exercise across five renal dialysis units.

Benefits of exercise on dialysis (EOD) are well established, however, uptake in our local satellite haemodialysis units is low. The implications of the status quo are risks to treatment efficiency, equity and patient centredness in managing personal health risks. The current study aimed to identify and address barriers to exercise participation while on dialysis by substantiating local EOD risks, assigning context, implementing changes and evaluating their impact. The primary objective was to increase the uptake of EOD across our five dialysis units.

Semi-structured interview and questionnaire data from patients and nursing staff were used to inform a root-cause analysis of barriers to exercise participation while on dialysis. Intervention was subsequently designed and implemented by a senior physiotherapist. It consisted of patient and nursing staff education, equipment modification and introduction of patient motivation schemes. Staff knowledge, patient motivation and equipment problems were the main barriers to EOD. A significant increase in the uptake of EOD from 23.3% pre-intervention to 74.3% post-intervention was achieved [χ2 (1, N = 174) = 44.18, P < 0.001].

Barriers to EOD are challenging, but there is evidence that patients wish to participate and would benefit from doing so. The input of a physiotherapist in the dialysis units had a significant positive effect on the uptake of EOD. National guidelines should encourage dialysis units to include professional exercise provision in future service planning.