The population of Europe is equal to the number of persons who have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which affects about 700 million people worldwide. Early on, it is a silent condition, which accounts in part for the shockingly low diagnostic rates. According to the degree of kidney function, CKD is a progressive condition that is split into five stages: stage 1 denotes normal kidney function and stage 5 denotes renal failure.
The majority of CKD patients will experience cardiovascular disease before developing kidney failure that necessitates dialysis or a transplant if left untreated. The cost of healthcare is significantly increased when kidney failure sets in due to CKD progression. Even though those who receive such treatment make up fewer than 0.1% of the world's population, many wealthy countries nevertheless spend 2–3% of their yearly healthcare expenditure on kidney failure treatment.
Kidney failure has a terrible effect on individuals and their families. Three times a week, for around four hours, dialysis patients must sit on a chair, and many experience temporary or permanent loss of employment. Because CKD disproportionately affects younger persons in low- and middle-income countries, early mortality brought on by a lack of access to dialysis may also diminish the labor force and contribute to household poverty.
Nevertheless, CKD is rarely given priority by decision-makers. According to the Global Kidney Health Atlas 2019, the majority of nations lack a national strategy for enhancing CKD care. Effective preventive, early detection, and management techniques are urgently needed to delay the progression of CKD in high-risk patients, lower the risk of cardiovascular death, and lessen the financial burden on healthcare systems.
Early CKD detection has strong economic justification given the costs of dialysis.
Where do we start?
1. Establishing specific goals and tracking progress
Governments must establish a national strategy for better CKD care and set a clear target to lower the number of patients who experience renal failure. Patient registries and the creation of quality indicators for all stages of CKD are essential for a good outcome in terms of tracking progress.
2. Investing in early detection and prevention
Patients at risk should participate in early detection programs for CKD, which have been demonstrated to be cost-effective. CKD can be identified utilizing two straightforward and affordable tests (blood and urine).
A person's chance of having CKD is higher if they have diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, or a family history of the condition. Depending on the area, it may also be crucial to take comorbidities, environmental exposures, or genetic risk factors into account. However, just 3% of healthcare spending is now allocated to prevention, of which only 20% is allocated to early diagnosis.
3. Empowering doctors in primary care
Empowering primary care physicians and creating successful multidisciplinary teams to play a larger role in early detection and management will help lessen the strain on hospitals and health systems due to a global shortage of healthcare professionals specializing in CKD care.
4. Taking advantage of the possibilities of digital health solutions
Another option to lessen the burden and improve patient access to care, especially for those in rural locations, is through technology. All of this is dependent on ongoing innovation and collaboration. For instance, new diagnostic tools that let people check their kidney function at home could cut down on office visits while empowering patients to be more involved in their own health.
The great example of how health systems can fail to act when a condition is curable early on at a far cheaper cost and with much better results is CKD.
Kidney failure puts the health system's viability in jeopardy and causes patients' health to worsen, putting them at risk for diseases like COVID-19. Investment in prevention and early detection is crucial to combat this mounting burden because the socioeconomic effects of CKD have been underappreciated.
To guarantee that we have the proper policies and solutions in place, meaningful advances require broader collaboration with patient communities, clinicians, policymakers, and industry.
We now have a genuine chance within CKD to change our focus and create more resilient and sustainable health systems because of public-private partnerships.
Here’s what you can do starting today:
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