West Virginia University Medicine rural kidney clinics have provided services to more than 50,000 people since 2003.
The rural outreach program offers prevention services and treatment for kidney disease at 11 outreach clinics around the state and one in western Maryland.
Kidney specialist Rebecca Schmidt estimates that access to rural clinics saves patients more than 6.5 million miles in travel and close to a million miles in gas.
Many of those patients simply would not have sought care until their kidney disease was acute and possibly in need of emergency actions, said kidney disease specialist Beth Pellegrino, M.D., in a press release.
More than 10 percent of Americans have kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but many may not know it because kidney disease has no early symptoms. Kidney disease is the sixth leading cause of death in West Virginia.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol are all risk factors for kidney disease. Residents who have those risk factors are encouraged to get regularly tested for the disease.
The percentage of patients in West Virginia who started dialysis in an outpatient setting rose from 74 percent in 2004 to 89 percent in 2011, making the state comparable to the national average.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.