Executive Director’s Corner: Considering Kidney Disease Detection & Prevention

Executive Director’s Corner: Considering Kidney Disease Detection & Prevention

August 1, 2022

I believe one of the biggest questions of our time in the kidney care space right now is “How do we maximize care and improve patient outcomes while lowering costs?” I think the answer lies early in the care continuum – slowing and even preventing progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Certainly, keeping people from “crashing into” dialysis will help. But it only helps to the extent we can provide early education and engage individuals with kidney disease in their own care while also providing access to innovative technologies, an adequate workforce, and affordable coverage choices to help them do this.

Perhaps an even bigger question is “How do we prevent CKD to begin with?” And the answer here lies not only in early detection of the factors that signal potential CKD (through screening & key data points), but in early detection and affordable care for underlying conditions such as diabetes and heart disease that often lead to kidney disease. Those of us in the patient advocacy space have been working on prevention education and incentives for years, and if there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that it’s notoriously difficult to change behaviors. 

A recent webinar by an innovator in the kidney care space got me thinking though: What should the kidney care community be doing differently to drive not only better clinical patient outcomes in all aspects of kidney care but in prevention, too? With an estimated 37 million Americans now living with CKD only expected to grow by 2030 (not to mention the tens of millions more at risk), there is certainly work to be done to slow or even reverse this. Prevention, education, and early detection will help, but it won’t be enough.

So, what more can we do? There will always be a need for dialysis and kidney transplant but clearing pathways for new innovative technologies and making them affordable and accessible will certainly go a long way to reduce the numbers who will need such advanced care. The challenge may be in how best to mix the “secret sauce” – the combination of prevention and self-care education, workforce, coverage, access, reimbursement, innovation and more. Doing so will certainly take system reform and the major investment of public and private resources. But doesn’t it make sense to invest now to save more — in both dollars and lives — later? And, if not now, then when?