By Peter Laird, MD
Nearly fifty years after the advent of chronic hemodialysis, a simple experiment in Australia stands to substantially reduce the cost of hemodialysis through applied solar technology. Dr. John Agar of Geelong Australia began the first home based nocturnal dialysis (NHHD) program in 2000 modeled after the Toronto protocol of Pierratos and Uldall. A recent cost analysis of home self-management revealed annual expenditures were $24,000/pt/year compared to $52,000/pt/year for incenter.
Nevertheless, one of the major barriers for patients utilizing NHHD is water usage and energy usage. Dr. Agar implemented a water conservation program resulting in up to 80% reduction in water bills for the average home patient. In addition, electricity usage remains high especially when applied to more frequent and longer duration dialysis sessions of NHHD. Dr. Agar proposed a pilot study funded by Fresenius Medical Care by applying proven solar technology to further reduce the financial burden of extended hemodialysis and the early results are very promising.
Current data (short term)
Despite starting during winter (July 2010) in the coldest, cloudiest, wettest 3 months for >10yrs, the following operative data has been achieved:
- Days of data collection 49 days
- Machine Hours 554 hrs
- Power used (machines + R/O’s) 714 kWh = 14.57 kWh/day
- Power made (solar panels) 544 kWh = 13.35 kWh/day
- kWh used/machine/hr 1.289 kWh
Despite a period of poorer than usual solarexposure and higher than usual service use, our array is already making 91.5% of power needed. Over summer, the system should prove a highly efficient power source.
Dr. Agar plans to assess this pilot project over a full 12 month period to take advantage of the Australian summers with the hope that this program will not only pay for itselfwith in 5-8 years, but actually generate a stable income stream during the projected 25-30 years of solar panel life. Application of this technology worldwide could potentially offer improved access of lifesaving dialysis to countries unable to afford dialysis in the past.
“The ramifications of this are huge. If our project proves successful – and so far it has – then Fresenius intend to roll-out solar power for their dialysis units around Australia and even the world, modelled on our system,” Prof Agar said.
This is just one more example of how the best medicine is still the cheapest medicine. Working smarter saves lives and money.