The case for an inpatient teleNephrology program is not unlike that for other subspecialties via telemedicine: a rising disease burden combined with an increasing shortage of specialists.

Like specialties more traditionally associated with telemedicine (such as neurology), having a team of nephrologists available via telemedicine to complement onsite clinicians can help hospitals avoid transferring patients to other hospitals. In the case of nephrology, this means patients with chronic kidney disease and other renal diagnoses don’t have to travel away from their homes and support systems to get care, saving them time and money and increasing patient satisfaction.

The care burden of chronic kidney disease is rising in the U.S., along with an increased incidence of diabetes and other factors associated with risk of developing kidney disease.

At the same, the number of nephrologists isn’t keeping up with demand. From 2009 through 2016, the percentage of filled nephrology fellowship training slots was in serious decline, plateauing at only about 40% (though in 2021 there was an encouraging rise to 57% of slots filled).

Meanwhile, the availability of fully trained nephrologists is limited and unevenly distributed. A 2015 report on the nephrology workforce  stated, “the supply of nephrologists is not evenly spread across the country and does not reflect the distribution of patients with kidney diseases as measured by end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients.”

Data from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care project shows that in some parts of the country each nephrologist could be responsible for as many as 300 to 400 ESRD patients, while in other areas the number could be just a few dozen.

Benefits of a TeleNephrology Program

With limited supply and geographic maldistribution, a custom inpatient telenephrology program is a practical solution. There are three major benefits:

  1. Keeps care local
    • Patients with electrolyte disorders, cystic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, and other kidney problems can access subspecialty care at their local hospital.
    • Increases hospital case mix index and revenue.
  2. Avoids care delays.
    • With a tele-nephrologist quickly available to evaluate a patient with electrolyte imbalances or kidney dysfunction, appropriate treatments can be started immediately without having to wait for transfer to a tertiary facility.
    • Avoiding transfers, where possible, is particularly important during the pandemic, when hospitals across the country have a shortage of care capacity and are limiting transfer acceptances.
  3. Improves patient satisfaction
    • Patients want and expect their local hospital to provide the care they need. A telenephrology programs allows hospitals to meet that expectation for subpspecialty nephrology care.

For more about how SOC Telemed works with hospitals and clinics to build custom telemedicine programs, contact us today.

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