In just a few short decades, our ability to treat patients with once-terminal conditions has advanced dramatically. Thirty years in practice as a nephrologist have given me a front-row seat to remarkable changes and positive advances for individuals with multiple complex health conditions, including improved patient outcomes, reduced mortality rates, and a better quality of life.
These years of progress have changed the equation from whether chronically ill patients can be treated successfully, to how we can treat them most effectively.
Without a doubt, how to improve the effectiveness of care for chronically ill individuals will be our overwhelming challenge in the decades to come. Patients with chronic conditions – like kidney disease, diabetes, and heart failure – are complex and costly to treat, since many of these individuals suffer from multiple disease conditions, see numerous specialists and take multiple medications. As patient populations continue to grow and Medicare expenditures continue to increase, patients and taxpayers alike have a stake in improving care through avoiding known expected health crises, lowering costs and preserving the integrity of the Medicare program.
Most recently, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance has named chronic disease management a top policy priority, for which they convened a working group last year to identify reforms that can effectively improve the care delivery and quality of life of chronically sick Americans – including how to strengthen disease management, streamline care coordination, improve quality, and reduce Medicare costs.
Data indicate that Medicare Advantage plans, which provide coordinated care that is lacking in traditional fee-for-service Medicare, can be very effective in supporting positive outcomes in quality, safe and efficient healthcare.