More than 340,000 Americans are being treated for End-Stage Renal Disease, or kidney failure. Of these, more than 240,000 are dialysis patients and more than 100,000 have a functioning kidney transplant. Each year, more than 67,000 deaths occur as a result of kidney failure. The current yearly cost for treating kidney failure in the United States is approximately $17.9 billion.
Dialysis acts as an artificial kidney. There are two types of dialysis: peritoneal and hemodialysis. About 90% of patients receiving dialysis receive it as hemodialysis. According to a recent study, Americans who have dialysis performed at private, for-profit centers, face an 8% higher risk of death than those who seek the treatment at private non-profit clinics. The research suggests that at least 2,500 deaths a year could possibly be prevented by switching kidney patients to non-profit dialysis centers.
For-profit dialysis centers typically have smaller staffs and nurses and technicians who are not as well trained. Patients generally attend for-profit clinics for shorter periods, which has been associated with higher mortality rates.
Dr. P.J. Devereaux, a Canadian cardiologist and co-author of the new study, has stated that the profit dialysis centers are not leading to a savings: “what our research keeps showing is that, instead of creating efficiencies, people are cutting the quality of care”. The new report is presented in the November edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
With so many patients undergoing dialysis at profit centers, the potential for an increase in these statistics is staggering. And, errors made to dialysis patients do not end with the actual dialysis treatments. Medical negligence or Physician failure to monitor the patient’s blood work and dialysis medications has also been seen recently at some local facilities. Thus, the careful choice of a dialysis center and the treating nephrologists could very well prove to be life-saving decisions.
Problems are also frequently seen with the dialysis access in hemodialysis patients. Fistulas get clotted and fail. Often, several surgeries are required to repair the dialysis access routes or provide for new routes. Each of these surgeries carries its own risks.
All of these potential problems require the dialysis patient and his or her family to stay on top of their dialysis care. It is simply no longer safe enough to blindly trust the dialysis clinics who, by seeking a profit, also seek to get the patients in and out as quickly as possible. It is also incumbent on the family to talk to the treating nephrologists, ask questions and seek answers to any questionable care.