Kidney transplantation is the most desired and cost-effective modality of renal replacement therapy for patients with irreversible chronic kidney failure (end-stage renal disease, stage 5 chronic kidney disease). Despite emerging evidence that the best outcomes accrue to patients who receive a transplant early in the course of renal replacement therapy, only 2.5% of incident patients with end-stage renal disease undergo transplantation as their initial modality of treatment, a figure largely unchanged for at least a decade. The National Kidney Foundation convened a Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (KDOQI) conference in Washington, DC, March 19 through 20, 2007, to examine the issue. Fifty-two participants representing transplant centers, dialysis providers, and payers were divided into three work groups to address the impact of early transplantation on the chronic kidney disease paradigm, educational needs of patients and professionals, and finances of renal replacement therapy. Participants explored the benefits of early transplantation on costs and outcomes, identified current barriers (at multiple levels) that impede access to early transplantation, and recommended specific interventions to overcome those barriers. With implementation of early education, referral to a transplant center coincident with creation of vascular access, timely transplant evaluation, and identification of potential living donors, early transplantation can be an option for substantially more patients with chronic kidney disease.