Higher Nephrologist Caseload Linked With Earlier Deaths Of Chronic Kidney Disease Patients

Photo from Businessweek

Photo from Businessweek

Dialysis patients have a 2% higher risk of dying with every additional 50 patients cared for by their Nephrologist, according to the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Therefore, a patient receiving care from a Nephrologist with a lower caseload will likely have a greater chance of survival. This study questions whether the benefit of a Nephrologist that has increased experience and is in high demand outweighs the possible deterioration in quality of care and patient outcomes.

Recommended Reading: Frequency and Amount of Time Spent With Your Nephrologist Can Boost Your Odds Of Survival

Nephrologists have limits on their time and ability to effectively care for patients. Previous studies have found that dialysis outcomes improve based upon increased access patients have to their Nephrologist. In other words, Kidney Physicians must see their patients when needs arise, and not just "bump" them to another day or to another Physician because of their packed schedule or long patient list.

Recommended Reading:  How Should the Kidney Patient Pick A Nephrologist?

The importance of a relationship between dialysis patients and their Nephrologist cannot be overly stressed. For a sustained partnership to work, you must select a Nephrologist that has the patient capacity (commonly referred to as “panel size”) to meet your personal healthcare needs.

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As a dialysis patient, it may be critical to know just how large your Nephrologist's panel size is. If they have 200 patients you may be wary and reconsider possibly getting another Kidney Physician. So how do you know the size of their patient list?  Ask them.  Find out not only how many patients they serve but how effective they are and if they are overwhelmed with their workload. Often times doctors will turn you away if they feel they are stretched too thin. But it is best that you make the determination of what exactly "too thin" really is.

Recommended Reading: A second opinion does not have to be awkward and is not offensive to the doctor

If you find that your current Nephrologist is unable to meet your needs then you may consider identifying one that is in less demand. KidneyBuzz.com does understand the benefits of experience but you should not discredit the value of youth and a doctor who is building his/her reputation. So many physicians find themselves practicing medicine in a new age armed with old age tools and information.  In this case, younger physicians have a huge advantage since their information was gleaned from a more current source and, what they lack in experience, they potentially can make up for in innovation.

Recommended Reading: The Role That The Dialysis Patient Can Play In Ensuring High Quality Care

There is a limit to the number of patients each Kidney Physician can effectively care for. Going forward, KidneyBuzz.com encourages you to keep the panel size in mind when looking for or evaluating your Nephrologist.  After all, this is your health and there is no reason to leave the outcome to chance. Optimal outcomes are no accident and are the results of proactive action. If you can control one of the most important variables associated with dialysis then you are simply taking charge of your health and quality of life.

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"Dialysis Patients May Live Longer If Their Kidney Specialist Sees Fewer Patients." Medical Xpress.

"Panel Size: How Many Patients Can One Doctor Manage?" - Family Practice Management.