If They Only Knew
Awareness of kidney disease is personal. Thirty-seven million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and only 10 percent of them know it.
Those who have experienced kidney failure - or watched their loved ones crash into dialysis - know intimately how painful and invasive renal replacement therapy is. Avoiding dialysis is possible, but many people miss out on preventative care simply because they don’t know they need it. They may not even talk to their physicians about renal disease until they’ve passed the point of intervention.
If only they had known.
Understanding the basics
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) commonly goes undetected for years before emerging as end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), making costly renal replacement therapy like dialysis or transplant a critical need. According to the CDC, more than thirty-seven million people in the U.S. are estimated to have CKD, and another 20–25 million are at risk of developing it. What’s more, some 90% of adults with CKD do not even know they have it. Each year, 120,000 U.S. patients are diagnosed with ESKD and require either maintenance dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.
Most Americans don’t understand the basics of how a kidney works, let alone how it can get damaged. Simply put, healthy kidneys remove waste products and extra fluid from the body. Our kidneys, made up of about a million filter units called nephrons, help make red blood cells and control blood pressure. (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases).
Nephrons can be thought of as tiny Brita filters that help clean our blood. This filtration system can be damaged by high sugar levels and diabetes, which “clog up” the filters. High blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, COVID, and kidney stones also can contribute to clogging, blocking, and even killing these essential filters.
When kidneys fail, wastes and excess fluid build up in the blood, setting off a chain reaction of negative effects throughout the entire body. Kidneys stop functioning gradually, so symptoms aren’t apparent until kidney disease has progressed.
Kidneys are essential to health. If people were aware of the risks, the outcomes, and the preventative measures they could take to combat kidney disease, we might start to see an increase in life-saving conversations between doctors and patients.
Starting the conversation
What if physicians were the ones to initiate those conversations? The COVID-19 pandemic has made people less likely to make or keep regular doctor appointments by 60% across the US adult population. At the same time, appointment times are getting shorter and shorter, making it more difficult for doctors to find time to talk to their patients about preventing a disease that arrives gradually and can strike without warning. But what if physicians could isolate which patients were at high risk for kidney disease and could target those particular patients proactively?
A U.S. patent was awarded to pulseData for machine-learning technology that predicts a patient’s risk of renal decline. The team is on a mission, given that nearly 850 million people worldwide are affected to some degree by CKD, and the majority are still undiagnosed1; nine out of ten people with CKD don’t even know they have it. PulseData’s technology harmonizes all data sources already generated by health systems — electronic health records (EHR), claims records, ADT feeds, pharmacy data, clinical laboratory results, and complementary data sources — to diagnose, risk stratify, and predict adverse events for patients with chronic disease or disorders.
Armed with such information, physicians can prioritize the highest risk patients and proactively provide them with key information and appropriate interventions before it’s too late.
“We’ve developed the technology and the data science to make CKD a fully diagnosed disease. By partnering with health plans, physicians, pharmacists and technology providers more people can know now. When they do, as their partners, we will all be adding 5 to 10 years of life to millions in the US alone.”
With these predictive profiles driving proactive conversations, busy physicians won’t have to say, “If they only knew.” Because they’ll know.
1 Jager KJ, et al. A single number for advocacy and communication-worldwide more than 850 million individuals have kidney diseases. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2019;34(11):1803-1805.