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Respect for the Kidneys!

March 13, 2019

Stephanie A. Hutchinson, MBA
Executive Director, HealthInsight ESRD Network 16 and 18

It seems as if the kidneys are finally getting the national attention they deserve. As we celebrate Kidney Month in March and World Kidney Day March 14, it is a good time to consider the importance of the kidneys and the growing demand for early identification of kidney disease and better kidney care.

Nearly 30 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease (CKD), and nearly half (48 percent) of people with severely reduced kidney function are unaware they have CKD. Currently, more than 750,000 patients have kidney failure, which requires life-sustaining dialysis treatment or a transplant to survive.

At the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Quality Conference in January, Adam Boehler, the Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, emphatically stated: “The state of kidney care in our country needs to dramatically improve.”

These are unprecedented words from national leadership to the 3,500 health care sector attendees from around the country. Mr. Boehler went on to state we must do the following:

  • Increase the number of patients dialyzing at home as soon as they are diagnosed with kidney failure, and
  • Increase the number of people who get pre-emptive transplants before the onset of dialysis.

The big question is: How we will accomplish this inspiring goal? The answer is in working purposefully with our stakeholders, at-risk communities, primary care physicians, nephrologists and the entire health care team to diagnose chronic kidney disease before the kidneys completely fail so that preventative measures can be taken.

When my father was diagnosed with late-stage chronic kidney disease (CKD) it was a shock to our entire family. Over the years, I also have known many dear friends who have kidney disease. They tell story after story about their surprise the day they learned their kidneys had failed.

Navigating the treatment options for kidney failure is complex, stressful and life changing. As health care providers, we must do a better job of screening for kidney disease to ease the transition for patients into the right modality of care for their situation, whether it be conservative care, pre-emptive transplantation, home dialysis or in-center dialysis.

Good work is happening all-around the country, with momentum growing in early identification of kidney disease. One stellar resource to address CKD is the recently released National Kidney Foundation’s CKD Change Package.

Here at Qualis Health and HealthInsight, we are actively including chronic kidney disease education in our diabetes outreach programs, and we are promoting reimbursable wellness exams that primary care doctors can use to screen for kidney disease. We also provide treatment option education to newly diagnosed patients with kidney failure. But this is not enough. We must be proactive in relaying the urgency of early diagnosis in our diabetic and hypertensive populations and provide prevention education once patients are identified with CKD, to slow the progression to dialysis.

So, as we celebrate National Kidney Month, follow the good advice below and honor and respect your kidneys:

  • Drink more water
  • Keep your diabetes or high blood pressure under control
  • Ask to be screened for CKD if you have diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Reduce or eliminate your use of ibuprofen

We are joining with the National Kidney Foundation encouraging all to make chronic kidney disease recognition and management an organizational priority.

About the Author

Stephanie Hutchinson is the executive director for HealthInsight End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Network 16 (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington) and 18 (Southern California). These Networks serve more than 60,000 patients with ESRD in 627 dialysis facilities and support the Medicare ESRD program by assuring appropriate care for patients with ESRD who receive treatment through dialysis facilities and kidney transplant centers certified by Medicare.