CHICAGO–In the foray of competition among dialysis providers, it's important to remember that there are patients who need to get well. Chronic illnesses, like kidney disease, offer many opportunities to improve the health status of a patient. Isn't that what medicine is supposed to be about? Heal, when you cannot cure.
Chief medical officers from dialysis companies across the country gathered at an airport hotel here this past week for a 1 ½ day discussion on how to bring better care to the 400,000 patients on dialysis in the United States. Some brought their administrators, nurse managers, and social workers to take part in the dialogue. But the objective for the conference, "From Innovation to Application: A CMO Symposium," spearheaded by CMOs Tom Parker (Renal Ventures Management), Allen Nissenson (DaVita), and Doug Johnson (Dialysis Clinic Inc.) was to leave behind the ledger sheet and the trappings of their competitive environment and discuss as health care providers how they could change practices and reduce morbidity and mortality in dialysis patients. In essence, doctors talking among themselves about what they could do better.
And there was a lot to talk about. It wouldn't be hard to dedicate a week of lectures and discussion on ways to improve dialysis care. Despite a specialty and a technique that has had more than 50 years to mature, there remain a number of things that need to be addressed. Some of those items are ways to enhance care—better data collection systems, improving communication with other specialties and hospital staff, better patient education and staff training. Then there is identifying solutions to more practice-related issues that should be physician-driven: improving infection control in the dialysis clinic, developing best practices to control fluid overload, reducing the heavy use of catheters among incident dialysis patients, enhancing nutritional support, and aggressively treating comorbid conditions. This meeting was an opportunity to showcase some positive approaches to those areas, including pilot projects that could have a very positive impact on improving care.
Look for more NN&I coverage of this meeting—including next steps for the CMO group—in First Word blogs next week.