Increasing the prevalence of arteriovenous (AV) fistulas is crucial to decreasing the incidence and costs of dialysis access failure. Despite almost uniform agreement in the dialysis community of the need to increase AV fistulas, U.S. fistula prevalence has only increased modestly since the publication of the Dialysis Outcomes Quality Initiative (DOQI) clinical practice guidelines in 1997. Fistula rates of 28% in incident patients and 27% in prevalent patients [Health Care Finance Administration (HCFA) clinical performance measures project data for 1999] do not approach the fistula rates achieved by various focused U.S. programs, nor those routinely observed in Europe. Systemic barriers that limit the availability and funding of both pre-end-stage renal disease (ESRD) care and preoperative imaging, coupled with financial disincentives, lack of accountability, and educational deficiencies, impede progress toward increased fistula placement. Improvements in AV fistula prevalence require a realistic appraisal and correction of the system problems hindering achievement of this goal. The DOQI and Kidney Disease Outcomes and quality Initiative (K/DOQI) were excellent first steps; however, implementation will require modification of other structures that impact on patient care delivery.