The cost of improving dialysis care

October 31, 2009

Improving survival among dialysis patients may increase treatment costs significantly, according to a paper being presented at the American Society of Nephrology's 42nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition in San Diego, CA. The authors created models of a 100 patient dialysis treatment center and a program with 7,500 hemodialysis patients (the approximate number of such patients in the Province of Ontario, Canada). Improving patient survival increased costs in the 100 patient model by $5 million over 10 years, and in the 7,500 patient model by $400 million over 10 years.

"Improving dialysis care may result in significantly increased costs for dialysis payers," said Philip McFarlane, MD (University of Toronto, Canada), one of the study authors. Increased long-term treatment costs may trigger a reduction or elimination of insurance reimbursement for dialysis patients. According to the paper, insurance companies and other agencies that pay for health care may reject new treatments that improve survival on dialysis, not because of cost of the new treatment, but because of the additional costs of providing dialysis.

"We hope that these results will help researchers and providers approach the controversial and sensitive question of cost effectiveness and life sustaining treatments," Dr. McFarlane noted. The findings indicate that research into less costly treatments that replace kidney function as well as improved patient survival may help dialysis patients and the organizations that underwrite the cost of dialysis care.
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The authors report no financial disclosures. David C. Mendelssohn, also of University of Toronto, co-authored the study.

EDITOR: The study abstract, "Can We Afford to Improve Survival in Patients Receiving Hemodialysis?" (SA-FC347) will be presented as part of a Free Communication Session during the American Society of Nephrology's 42nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition on Oct. 31 at 5:24 pm in Room 25 of the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, CA.

ASN Renal Week 2009, the largest nephrology meeting of its kind, will provide a forum for 13,000 professionals to discuss the latest findings in renal research and engage in educational sessions related to advances in the care of patients with kidney and related disorders. Renal Week 2009 will take place October 27 - November 1 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego.

Founded in 1966, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) is the world's largest professional society devoted to the study of kidney disease. Comprised of 11,000 physicians and scientists, ASN continues to promote expert patient care, to advance medical research, and to educate the renal community. ASN also informs policymakers about issues of importance to kidney doctors and their patients. ASN funds research, and through its world-renowned meetings and first-class publications, disseminates information and educational tools that empower physicians.

American Society of Nephrology

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