Having access to nationally representative data for one routine lab test—creatinine levels—could help researchers better understand and slow the progression of kidney disease that affects up to 26 million Americans. Recently, ASN urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics to add patients’ serum creatinine levels to the list of laboratory data the center collects in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS).
NAMCS gathers information on patients, providers, and visit characteristics from community health centers and non–federally employed office-based physicians who are primarily engaged in direct patient care. Physicians representing approximately 15 major medical specialty groups are sampled, and health care researchers, medical schools, congressional staff, and many others use the data to improve their knowledge of medical practice patterns.
In 2010, NAMCS began collecting laboratory test results, including total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, triglycerides, glycohemoglobin A1c, and fasting blood glucose, to improve the understanding of how physicians manage hyperlipidemia and diabetes.
The addition of creatinine levels, the most common measure of kidney function and collected with a simple blood test, will generate a critical resource for investigators studying prevalence, management, and treatment of patients with kidney disease in community settings. This information can be used to better understand practice patterns in order to enhance knowledge of kidney disease in a number of ways. For instance, researchers could better understand how certain types of physician practices are able to slow progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and prevent the development of kidney failure, or end stage renal disease (ESRD).
The availability of this vital public health information could not be more timely. The combination of an aging population and epidemic increases in obesity and diabetes means the number of Americans with ESRD could continue to rise. Current projections estimate 774,000 Americans will have ESRD by 2020, and the same forces are increasing the population burden of CKD.
“Having measures of kidney function from a nationally representative group of clinical facilities would provide powerful information on how physicians and other health care providers in outpatient medical facilities are addressing early stages of kidney disease,” said ASN Public Policy Board Member Neil R. Powe, MD, FASN.
Besides being the right thing to do, the addition of creatinine levels to NAMCS makes smart economic sense: information that helps slow the progression of CKD will help stem the rising tide of costs associated with this disease and maintain patients’ overall health. ASN is committed to working with the CDC, National Institutes of Health, other federal agencies, and Congress to advance research and the highest quality care for patients.