Kaiser Health News recently reported on new research that provides a fresh perspective on the importance of preventive care, early detection and access to nephrologists in improving outcomes for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Prevention and early detection and treatment could have significant impact on public spending to treat kidney failure, which costs Medicare close to $30 billion per year.
Researchers at Emory University looked at Medicare claims made by patients 18 and older who were diagnosed with CKD between January 2005 and December 2011. They looked specifically at how kidney disease patients used the emergency room and how many patients went on to require hospitalization from emergency room visits—both of which cost much more than care outside a hospital. The researchers found that there were ways to improve quality of care and decrease the need for costly emergency room intervention during all stages of kidney disease.
Rachel Patzer, director of health services research at the Emory Transplant Center and one of the study’s co-authors, noted that many people learn they have advanced kidney disease during a visit to the emergency room. These patients usually do not have the benefit of receiving a nephrologist’s care before their disease is very severe.
The researchers emphasized the importance of prevention and early detection, which could make “a substantial dent” in public health spending on kidney failure—ESRD patients make up less than 1 percent of the people on Medicare, and yet they use more than 7 percent of Medicare’s overall budget. Patients who have access to nephrology care and help managing risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can slow the progression of their kidney disease and may be able to prevent kidney failure altogether.
The full Kaiser Health News story can be found here.
We see this study as validating the American Kidney Fund’s comprehensive approach to the serious health issue of kidney disease in the United States. Our outreach and education programs, including free kidney health screenings in cities nationwide, identify people who may be at increased risk for kidney disease and provide them with the practical knowledge that can help them prevent it. Our extensive online information about kidney disease, its causes and its treatments reaches millions of people each year. For patients living with kidney failure, we provide a wealth of online information and patient resources, including free monthly webinars on living well with kidney failure. We fund clinical research that studies practical ways to improve treatment for patients. And for low-income dialysis patients, our grant programs help ensure that they have access to lifesaving health care.