In 1996, Fresenius merged its U.S. dialysis business with dialysis provider National Medical Care to create Fresenius Medical Care. It was the beginning of a new company and a new mission — to deliver superior care that improves the quality of life of every patient, every day, setting the standard by which others in the healthcare industry are judged.
Over the past 25 years, we’ve put our patients first in everything we do, from providing exceptional care to offering high-quality dialysis products and services.
As we continue to grow and evolve as an organization, we’re better positioned to meet the needs of our patients and care for them across the renal care continuum. Over the last 25 years, we’ve spearheaded several initiatives with the goal of improving our patients’ experience and helping them live life to the fullest.
As we strive to improve the quality of life of patients living with kidney disease, we’re committed to empowering patients to choose the best treatment option for them.
Helping eligible patients get on the waitlist for a kidney transplant is one of our top priorities. However, for patients who aren’t eligible for a kidney transplant, or who are waiting to receive one, we’re dedicated to helping them transition to home dialysis. Experts believe that, aside from a kidney transplant, home dialysis is generally the best option for patients with end stage renal disease (ESRD). Choosing home dialysis can mean fewer food restrictions, fewer transportation challenges, greater schedule flexibility, and improved outcomes. Educating patients about home therapies is important to ensure they choose the best treatment option for their lifestyle and health needs.
In 2020, we celebrated record growth in home dialysis. Home treatments increased approximately 15 percent compared to the previous year, and home hemodialysis grew nearly 40 percent.
To enhance patient education, we’re focused on supporting patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) through our free, expert-led kidney disease education class taught by our Kidney Care Advocates (KCAs). During the class, our KCAs assist people learning about CKD adjust to life with this chronic condition, understand how to eat well, prepare to start dialysis, and select a treatment option. They also support our in-center dialysis patients and educate them about home therapies, so they are aware that it is an option. Thanks to our KCAs, we’ve educated thousands of CKD and ESRD patients about living well with kidney disease and about all their treatment options, including home dialysis.
We’re also empowering patients to take control of their care through transitional care units (TCUs). It’s critical that patients receive the support they need — particularly when they start dialysis — to ensure they are positioned for success and able to thrive. To address this need, our kidney care services business, Fresenius Kidney Care, recently expanded its network of TCUs, opening 115 new programs nationwide in 2020. TCUs are separate treatment areas within a dialysis center dedicated to:
In these settings, patients are provided the time and resources to learn more about their care and make an educated decision about the treatment option best suited for them. In many cases, that is home dialysis. More than 50 percent of patients who have been through a TCU will choose home dialysis.
As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, we’re looking to improve clinical outcomes through innovation, fueled by dynamic research and a genuine understanding of patients’ needs across the renal care continuum.
Using surveys, we strive to create a culture of listening to better understand our patients’ needs and advance the services and care we offer. Through this process, we identified connected health as an emerging opportunity that could play a significant role in reducing costs while improving the quality of coordinated care.
In 2019, we launched our new connected health platform, theHub, further enhancing remote monitoring capabilities for patients on home dialysis, and centralizing three applications that enable patients, care teams, and providers to better collaborate. Patients can submit daily treatment data, review medications or labs, and stay connected with their care team. TheHub also provides care teams and providers real-time information so they can detect potential health issues earlier.
We also recently achieved a major milestone for our Nx2me Connected Health, with 80 percent of all home hemodialysis patients using a NxStage machine regularly using the platform. Nx2me offers many advantages for people on home dialysis, including live virtual support through the Nx2me iPad and automatic transfer of treatment information, eliminating the need for manual entry. The deployment of this platform is part of our efforts to provide patients with the most advanced home therapies technology, helping improve their experience and overall retention.
According to research conducted in 2019, patients who actively used our connected health platforms had a 20 percent lower risk of hospitalization, higher transplantation rates, and stayed on dialysis longer. As a result, home patients have more confidence and personalized support. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we’ve conducted over 1 million telehealth visits, ensuring continuity of care.
After identifying the critical role that community support plays in a patient’s care, Fresenius Kidney Care launched the Kidney Care Community in March 2020. This online forum connects people impacted by kidney disease with their peers around the country. Providing information, resources, and inspiration, this online community provides an additional level of support for people living with kidney disease and their caregivers. This is especially helpful for patients who dialyze at home and have fewer in-person interactions with their care team and other patients.
In addition to listening to our patients’ feedback, we understand that change and innovation are critical to providing long-term superior healthcare. Helping drive innovation, we’ve invested in organizations to promote the development of products and technologies that will benefit people living with kidney disease. We furnished funding to BioIntelliSense, creators of the BioButton device, an on-body sensor that tracks patients’ vitals for continuous health monitoring. This device provides a direct connection between clinicians and patients, helping improve timely patient care.
We’re also driving medical progress through our investment in Humacyte, a company developing implantable human acellular vessels. After an initial investment in 2018 and a recently announced additional investment, we are the lead investor in the organization. The manufactured blood vessels developed by Humacyte can be used for vascular repair or reconstruction. They may also prove to be a more effective vascular access for hemodialysis patients than the current synthetic grafts and fistulas. We’re committed to helping bring this technology to market for the benefit of patients worldwide who need regenerative medicine.
Investing in research is one more way we’re fostering innovative solutions for patients. While nephrology has historically been underrepresented in clinical research, we’re committed to changing this trend and furthering our understanding of kidney disease. Frenova, a research division of Fresenius Medical Care, is developing the largest renal-focused genomic registry in the world to advance renal therapy. The registry will contain genomic sequencing from people with kidney disease that researchers can employ to fuel scientific innovations, and allow us to provide more precise, personalized care.
Beyond dialysis care, we’re committed to educating patients about — and removing barriers to — kidney transplant, helping them enjoy a greater quality of life.
To that end, we launched the Fresenius Medical Care Foundation (the Foundation) in 2018, with the goal of improving the lives of those impacted by kidney disease. In addition to educating patients and their support networks about transplantation as a modality option, the Foundation is focused on ensuring every eligible person who needs a kidney receives one. To achieve this, the Foundation has partnered with leading nonprofits including Donate Life America and the National Kidney Foundation to improve the process for and increase the number of living donations.
Another barrier to transplantation is that the demand usually exceeds the supply. On average, people have to wait three to seven years for a transplant from a deceased donor and one year for a living donor transplant. Through an investment in the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), we’re focused on improving how organs are transported and managed. Our goal is to minimize the number of organs discarded due to time outside the body and help increase the number of successful transplants.
Our first 25 years have established us as an industry leader, and we proudly own the responsibility of setting the standard by which others in the healthcare industry are judged. Looking ahead to the next 25 years, we have an opportunity to pause, reflect, and come together as an organization for the benefit of patients.
We’re committed to building on our accomplishments and experience to identify and develop new capabilities in the years to come. In doing so, we can realize our vision of creating a future worth living for patients worldwide. As we continue to grow and evolve, our commitment to improve the life of every patient, every day will never waver.