Improving Incident ESRD Care Via a Transitional Care Unit

Am J Kidney Dis. 2018 Aug;72(2):278-283. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2018.01.035. Epub 2018 Mar 3.


Dialysis care in the United States continues to move toward an emphasis on continuous quality improvement and performance benchmarking. Government- and industry-sponsored programs have evolved to assess and incentivize outcomes for many components of end-stage renal disease care. One aspect that remains largely unaddressed at a systemic level is the high-risk transition period from chronic kidney disease and acute kidney injury to permanent dialysis dependence. Incident dialysis patients experience disproportionately high mortality and hospitalization rates coupled with high costs. This article reviews the clinical case for a special emphasis on this transition period, reviews published literature regarding prior transitional care programs, and proposes a novel iteration of the first 30 days of dialysis care: the transitional care unit (TCU). The goal of a TCU is to improve awareness of all aspects of renal replacement therapy, including modalities, access, transplantation options, and nutritional and psychosocial aspects of the disease. This enables patients to make truly informed decisions regarding their care. The TCU model is open to all patients, including incident patients with end-stage renal disease, those for whom peritoneal dialysis is failing, or those with failing transplants. This model may be especially beneficial to those who are deemed inadequately prepared or "crash start" patients.

Keywords: CKD-ESRD transition; End-stage renal disease (ESRD); dialysis modality selection; hemodialysis; home dialysis; incident ESRD; patient-centered care; quality improvement; renal replacement therapy (RRT); transitional care; transitional care unit (TCU); vascular access.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Renal Dialysis / methods
  • Renal Dialysis / trends*
  • Transitional Care / trends*