A qualitative study documenting unmet needs in the management of diabetic kidney disease (DKD) in the primary care setting

Manasi Datar, Saranya Ramakrishnan, Elizabeth Montgomery, Steven G. Coca, Joseph A. Vassalotti, Thomas Goss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: A majority of diabetic kidney disease (DKD) patients receive medical care in the primary care setting, making it an important opportunity to improve patient management. There is limited evidence evaluating whether primary care physicians (PCPs) are equipped to effectively manage these patients in routine clinical practice. The present study was undertaken to identify gaps in primary care and unmet needs in the diagnosis and monitoring of DKD in type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients among PCPs. Methods: This was a qualitative analysis based on 30–45-min interviews with PCPs treating T2D patients. PCPs were recruited via email and were board-certified, in practice for more than 3 years, spent most of their time in direct clinical care, and provided care for more than three T2D patients in a week. Descriptive data analysis was conducted to identify and examine themes that were generated by interviews. Two reviewers evaluated interview data to identify themes and developed consensus on the priority themes identified. Results: A total of 16 PCPs satisfying the inclusion criteria were recruited for qualitative interviews. Although the PCPs recognized kidney disease as an important comorbidity in T2D patients, testing for kidney disease was not consistently top of mind, with 56% reportedly performing kidney function testing in their T2D patients. PCPs most frequently reported using estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) alone to monitor and stage DKD; only 25% PCPs reported testing for albuminuria. Most PCPs incorrectly believed that a majority of DKD patients are diagnosed in early stages. Also, early stages of DKD emerged as ambiguous areas of decision-making, wherein treatments prescribed greatly varied among PCPs. Lastly, early and accurate risk stratification of DKD patients emerged as the most important unmet need; which, if it could be overcome, was consistently identified by PCPs as a key to monitoring, appropriate nephrologist referrals, and intervening to improve outcomes in patients with DKD. Conclusions: Our study highlights important unmet needs in T2D DKD testing, staging, and stratification in the PCP setting that limit effective patient care. Health systems and insurers in the U.S. should prioritize the review and approval of new strategies that can improve DKD staging and risk stratification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number930
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Albuminuria
  • Diabetic kidney disease
  • Inconsistent screening
  • Primary care
  • Primary care provider
  • Risk assessment
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • eGFR


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