Most nephrologists are primary care providers for chronic dialysis patients: Results of a national survey

Filitsa H. Bender, Jean L. Holley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The medical care of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients includes not only dialysis-related medical care but preventive and general medical care as well as the care of minor acute illnesses. There is little information about nephrologists' interpretation of their potential role as a primary health care provider for the general medical needs of chronic dialysis patients. To characterize nephrologists' primary care practice patterns related to the care of chronic dialysis patients, we surveyed a randomly selected group of practicing nephrologists and asked questions about preventive medicine guidelines followed, treatment of minor acute illnesses, and management of chronic medical problems in ESRD patients. The results of 233 questionnaires (46% response rate) were analyzed. Most of the responding nephrologists were men (91%), were board certified in internal medicine (96%) and nephrology (83%), were out of nephrology practice for a mean of 16 years, had a mean age of 48 ± 7 years, and were in private practice (65%). The average percentage of time spent with chronic dialysis patients was reported as 30%; 38% of that time was devoted to the general medical care of those patients. Ninety percent of nephrologists reported that they provided primary care to their dialysis patients, and only 21% said a nurse practitioner or physician assistant worked with them. Age and number of years in practice were the only demographic factors increasing the likelihood of nephrologist-provided primary care, with older, more experienced practitioners more likely to be providing primary care to dialysis patients. Most nephrologists reported that they managed minor acute illnesses and comorbid conditions (diabetes mellitus, cardiac disease, and gastrointestinal disease) in their dialysis patients. Nephrology fellowship training programs and recertification programs may need to address issues of primary general health care of ESRD patients. Plans under development for health care programs and reimbursement criteria also need to recognize and consider the primary medical care role practiced by nephrologists caring for ESRD patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-71
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • End-stage renal disease
  • hemodialysis
  • primary care
  • subspecialist medical care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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