Caring for patients with kidney disease: shifting the paradigm from evidence-based medicine to patient-centered care

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2016 Mar;31(3):368-75. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfv003. Epub 2015 Jan 29.


The last several decades have witnessed the emergence of evidence-based medicine as the dominant paradigm for medical teaching, research and practice. Under an evidence-based approach, populations rather than individuals become the primary focus of investigation. Treatment priorities are largely shaped by the availability, relevance and quality of evidence and study outcomes and results are assumed to have more or less universal significance based on their implications at the population level. However, population-level treatment goals do not always align with what matters the most to individual patients-who may weigh the risks, benefits and harms of recommended treatments quite differently. In this article we describe the rise of evidence-based medicine in historical context. We discuss limitations of this approach for supporting real-world treatment decisions-especially in older adults with confluent comorbidity, functional impairment and/or limited life expectancy-and we describe the emergence of more patient-centered paradigms to address these limitations. We explain how the principles of evidence-based medicine have helped to shape contemporary approaches to defining, classifying and managing patients with chronic kidney disease. We discuss the limitations of this approach and the potential value of a more patient-centered paradigm, with a particular focus on the care of older adults with this condition. We conclude by outlining ways in which the evidence-base might be reconfigured to better support real-world treatment decisions in individual patients and summarize relevant ongoing initiatives.

Keywords: evidence-based medicine; kidney disease; older adults; paradigm; patient-centered care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient-Centered Care / methods*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / therapy*