Improving Patient Education
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Managing a chronic disease that progresses and changes over time can be a daunting challenge. It takes a combination of strong personal motivation, accurate information about what strategies work, the emotional capacity to change, and a robust support network to cheer you on as you make the decisions to change your behavior. But one thing is clear: no hope for improved self-management unless you are aware of the need for change.
Sadly, people living with chronic kidney disease (CKD), are often not given the opportunity to make different choices. An estimated 37 million people, or 15% of US adults, have CKD, but only 10% of them know it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CKD is generally a silent condition. It does not cause pain, discomfort, or other symptoms so people who have it are unaware that their kidney health is declining.
Even among those with severe CKD, 2 out of 5 are unaware that their kidneys have failed.
Why is Measuring Kidney Health Relevant?
Chronic kidney disease is a disease multiplier. It significantly increases risk for cardiovascular events and mortality. Annual testing, early recognition and diagnosis can slow progression and reduce rising cardiovascular risk.
This striking lack of awareness reflects a serious care quality gap the health care system needs to close. From a public health perspective, it’s a crisis. CKD is a leading cause of heart disease and end stage kidney disease, among other serious health issues.
Raising CKD awareness first requires proactive and guideline concordant screening of high-risk patients, which includes adults with diabetes, hypertension, or both. The National Kidney Foundation offers a Quick Reference Guide on Kidney Disease Screening which features a 5-step plan for CKD evaluation and referral. The plan helps primary care physicians and clinicians know the criteria for CKD, recognize the risk factors for the disease, appropriately screen patients, classify the stage of the disease to guide testing and treatment, and implement an action plan to manage the disease and educate patients.
Patient Education Tools and Resources
Patients also need information and tools to understand their condition and build the motivation to set and achieve goals to protect their kidney health. The NKF can help here, too. Clinicians can refer patients to Kidney Pathways, an online resource to help patients understand their condition and steps they can take to stop it from progressing. This site uses a very brief questionnaire to help patients interact with their own lab results so they can access a custom course that walks them through important topics in plain language.
The NKF also offers a free 8-week workshop Take Charge of Your Kidney Health for people with Chronic Kidney Disease who want to learn how to manage their illness and live healthier with kidney disease.
Even more comprehensive information for patients is available in the A to Z Health Guide, which is available in English and Spanish. These and other patient resources available through the NKF can help patients build the motivation to live their best, healthiest life.
CKDIntercept is a groundbreaking initiative from the National Kidney Foundation to improve chronic kidney disease testing, recognition and management in primary care.
For more information on the initiatives and programs within CKDIntercept: