Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, October 11, 2013

U-M center awarded $17.6 million to improve renal health care in U.S.

The U-M Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center has received a five-year, $17.6 million federal grant to develop new measures to evaluate all the dialysis facilities in the United States with the goal of improving renal health care, saving lives and reducing cost.

The work, funded by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is crucial since end-stage renal disease is deadly, costly and growing. End-stage renal failure is when the kidneys completely stop working and no longer remove excess waste and water from the body. A patient's only hope for survival is dialysis or a transplant.

"Without dialysis, a patient with end stage renal disease will likely die within a week or two," said Yi Li, director of the Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center, professor of biostatistics and principal investigator of the award. "Our job is to evaluate and develop the quantitative measures to evaluate the health care quality, improve the patient's quality of life, reduce mortality and reduce medical costs."

Kidney disease affects about 13 percent of the American population and is on the rise, due in part to increases in diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) spent $30 billion treating end-stage renal failure patients, Li said.

There are 18 business centers nationally authorized to do this kind of work for CMS. The U-M center, which is housed at the School of Public Health, recently was designated a business center this year under a separate successful grant led by Li.  The university is the only academic institution to be represented as an authorized business center.

What makes the 38-member U-M research team unique is its assembly by Li of broad and deep expertise from a variety of disciplines, ranging from biostatistics and health management and policy, to cardiovascular medicine, nephrology, and uro-oncology.  Among them, there are 28 faculty members from the School of Public Health, Medical School and School of Information. Under this new federal grant, Li and his team plan to study and analyze data from the nation's more than 6,000 dialysis facilities.

The measures developed by Li's team will form the basis to improve practices among the vulnerable kidney patient population by reducing disease progression, managing resource utilization and containing medical costs, as well as improving both access to and quality of care. Information gained from the national big data will improve clinical practice and patient outcomes and will inform federal public policy about organ failure.

"This research will significantly advance science in the field," Li said. "It will enable us to really understand the health care system, identify the way to deliver the best care to our kidney patients, and also in the future find a way to improve the quality of life for chronic disease patients. I am honored to be part of the team comprising of world-class experts to undertake such an important initiative."