Doctors turning to quality improvement to better detect chronic kidney disease


With Kidney Health Week coming up on 25-31 May, it is a timely reminder that many patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are unaware that they have this condition. It is estimated that 1.7 million adult Australians have CKD. However, in more than 80% of cases it remains undiagnosed. Because there are few symptoms in its early stages a person can lose 90% of their kidney function before any symptoms appear. It is also one of the few diseases with mortality rates that are worsening over time. Now one innovative Australian not-for-profit organisation is offering a solution.

Early detection of CKD can improve a person’s quality of life and prevent untimely death. However, one of the greatest challenges for a busy general practice is to incorporate the early detection of CKD into their daily workload. The Improvement Foundation has taken the quality improvement methods used to turn industrial manufacturers like General Electric into lean, mean, production machines, and successfully adapted and applied these methods for use in general practices across Australia.

The Australian Primary Care Collaboratives Program (APCC), delivered by the Improvement Foundation, is Australia’s first and largest quality improvement program for general practices. Thousands of GPs and their teams are now participating in it and applying the quality improvement methods they’ve learned to identify patients with, or at risk of, CKD.

The aim for general practices involved in the APCC Program is to screen 90% of their practice population who are at high risk of developing CKD. Patients who are considered to be at high risk include those with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or smokers. People who are over the age of 60, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over the age of 30, are also considered to be at high risk of developing CKD. The earlier the disease is identified in a patient the better the outcomes are for the patient.

Breed Street clinic in rural Traralgon, Victoria, is participating in the latest round of the APCC Program, which has a focus on improving the care of patients with CKD, and identifying those who might be at risk.

Dr Paul Brougham, GP, says his decision to participate was an easy one, “Participating in the APCC Program is an opportunity for us to learn how to develop a more systematic approach to identifying patients at high risk of developing chronic conditions like kidney disease. By applying the quality improvement approach we are learning through the APCC, we are delivering better care for all of our patients.”

Ms Anne Wilson, CEO of Kidney Health Australia said, “What we do know is that people at high risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) are not always identified in time for early detection and best practice to occur in primary care. Indeed, Kidney Health Week this year will focus on improving early awareness of kidney disease in the community, and that’s why Kidney Health Australia is supportive of programs such as those of the Improvement Foundation aimed at enhancing early detection in primary care – the two go hand-in-hand. We know that early detection of CKD can either halt the disease or slow progression to end stage in 50% of cases. The role of GPs in the early detection and management of CKD is a critical one.”

A large part of this training involves using quality improvement methods to enhance daily work processes in participating practices. This enables care teams to establish better systems to support the type of proactive care that experts know helps improve quality of life for patients with chronic diseases like heart disease, and ultimately save lives.

The APCC program is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

APCC Program website:
Fast Facts on CKD on the Kidney Health Australia website.

To arrange an interview regarding any of the above, or with a GP in your state or capital city who is participating in the APCC Program, please contact:

Erika Dauner, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
P: 08 8422 7403

May 22, 2014

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