Background: Primary care physicians (PCPs) typically manage early chronic kidney disease (CKD), but recent guidelines recommend nephrology co-management for some patients with stage 3 CKD and all patients with stage 4 CKD. We sought to compare quality of care for co-managed patients to solo managed patients.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional analysis. Patients included in the study were adults who visited a PCP during 2009 with laboratory evidence of CKD in the preceding two years, defined as two estimated glomerular filtration rates (eGFR) between 15-59 mL/min/1.73 m(2) separated by 90 days. We assessed process measures (serum eGFR test, urine protein/albumin test, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker [ACE/ARB] prescription, and several tests monitoring for complications) and intermediate clinical outcomes (mean blood pressure and blood pressure control) and performed subgroup analyses by CKD stage.
Results: Of 3118 patients, 11 % were co-managed by a nephrologist. Co-management was associated with younger age (69 vs. 74 years), male gender (46 % vs. 34 %), minority race/ethnicity (black 32 % vs. 22 %; Hispanic 13 % vs. 8 %), hypertension (75 % vs. 66 %), diabetes (42 % vs. 26 %), and more PCP visits (5.0 vs. 3.9; p < 0.001 for all comparisons). After adjustment, co-management was associated with serum eGFR test (98 % vs. 94 %, p = <0.0001), urine protein/albumin test (82 % vs 36 %, p < 0.0001), and ACE/ARB prescription (77 % vs. 69 %, p = 0.03). Co-management was associated with monitoring for anemia and metabolic bone disease, but was not associated with lipid monitoring, differences in mean blood pressure (133/69 mmHg vs. 131/70 mmHg, p > 0.50) or blood pressure control. A subgroup analysis of Stage 4 CKD patients did not show a significant association between co-management and ACE/ARB prescription (80 % vs. 73 %, p = 0.26).
Conclusion: For stage 3 and 4 CKD patients, nephrology co-management was associated with increased stage-appropriate monitoring and ACE/ARB prescribing, but not improved blood pressure control.