Decision making in end stage kidney disease (ESKD) in Ghana: exploring patient and clinician perspectives

Appiah Boateng, Edward (2016) Decision making in end stage kidney disease (ESKD) in Ghana: exploring patient and clinician perspectives. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study was carried out in Ghana, where the incidence of end stage kidney disease (ESKD) is increasing in a context of limited treatment options. Understanding the issues patients with ESKD grapple with when diagnosed with this life-threatening condition is essential to improve healthcare policy and practice in such low- and middle-income settings. In the absence of evidence related to the African ESKD patient journey, this study aimed at exploring how decisions about ESKD management are being made, especially in under-resourced settings where specific treatment modalities are not always available. The study addresses an important gap in the literature concerning choice and decision making in an international context. The key research question for this study is, in terms of the context, does the problem of limited resources in low- and middle-income countries present different choices to the patient with ESKD facing decisions about their treatment?

Methodology and Methods

The study employed a qualitative research design, using grounded theory methodology. Twenty-seven participants in three renal centres, comprising twenty-two patients with ESKD and five clinicians, were selected using the theoretical sampling approach and interviewed for this study. Constant comparative analysis was employed in data analysis.


A conceptual map depicting the ESKD patient journey and key phases of decision making was developed from this study. Ghanaian patients with ESKD are mostly unaware of the implications of their initial symptoms, and end up delaying seeking healthcare from a hospital. Some of those who seek care from hospitals are initially diagnosed with and treated for other conditions other than ESKD. Thus, many patients with ESKD in Ghana present late to a renal centre. Treatment for ESKD is initiated for various reasons, including, initially, the urgent need to avoid premature death. Many approach their condition in terms of hoping for a cure and do not always understand the chronic nature of their condition. Decisions on initiating haemodialysis (HD) are mostly shared between clinicians and patients and/or their families but the process is mainly driven by the need to ascertain patient and family’s ability to finance HD, rather than considering other aspects of treatment burden. The subject of death or conservative management is not openly discussed and, once this is brought up, patients usually do everything possible to opt for another form of treatment, including the simultaneous use of other non-RRT and traditional or faith-based healing approaches.

Clinicians play vital roles in the decision making of patients with ESKD although they have general feelings of helplessness while supporting these patients. Convergence between individuals’ experiences of realities of living with and managing ESKD, and support from clinicians in the renal setting ultimately leads to a reconstruction of health expectations that commensurate management goals of ESKD. This sums up the substantive theory of ‘reconstructing health expectations’ that was generated from this study.


Financial and geographical inaccessibility of renal replacement therapy (RRT) as well as the relative lack of biomedical treatment choices make decision making daunting for the individual with ESKD in Ghana. Reluctance to discuss death as a potential outcome is a hindrance to the consideration of conservative management as a treatment option. Effective realignment of healthcare policies to address changing patterns of diseases is necessary to contribute to prevention, early detection and effective management of ESKD in the country. An improved approach to conservative management is urgently required, including training support for clinicians on shared decision making as well as sensitisation of patients on this modality.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: East, L.A.
Evans, C.
Keywords: Patient decision making, ESKD, ESKD patient journey, Ghana, Reconstructing health expectations, Grounded theory
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WJ Urogenital system
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Item ID: 37965
Depositing User: Appiah Boateng, Edward
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2017 11:57

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