5 trends affecting the gastroenterology specialty

Gastroenterology remains a lucrative specialty for ASCs, with both growth and disruption expected in 2020.

Here are five things to expect this year:

1. Walmart is coming to gastroenterology. Walmart is leveraging its million-person-strong health plan to develop a featured provider network it's testing in Northwest Arkansas, Dallas and Orlando, Fla. Read more here. 

2. The specialty will grow in the next 10 years. As the decade comes to a close in gastroenterology, the specialty has never been at a point of more promise. Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are decreasing as screening rates increase; the introduction of machine learning into the specialty is happening at a rapid pace; and the public has never been more aware of the importance of gut health. Read more here.

3. Changes in Medicare's 2020 final rule. CMS dropped its proposal requiring GI practices to alert patients of the possibility they may be billed if their screening colonoscopy becomes therapeutic if a polyp is removed. CMS will also reverse its rule to collapse evaluation and management levels two through four for established and new patients to outpatient centers and offices in 2021. GI societies and the American Medical Association worked together on a new CMS plan which retains five levels of coding for established patients and sets four levels of coding for new patients. Read more here.

4. What private equity has in store for GI in 2020. Gastroenterology investment dominated the specialty in 2019, with no signs of slowing down in 2020. NextServices President and Co-founder Praveen Suthrum examined the current PE landscape in GI and offered insights into the future.

An insight he shared:

"Initially, platforms tended to be regional first and national afterwards. In 2019, we saw a few national deals. The PE platform in Texas [the GI Alliance] acquired a group in Illinois. The PE platform in Florida [Gastro Health] acquired a group in Washington. Newer platforms [like US Digestive Health] will tend to consolidate practices in their home region first.

Through 2020, we will see merger and acquisition announcements of various mid-size or large GI practices. The PE platforms will compete to acquire and expand. And newer PE platforms will form in other regions."

5. Gastroenterologist salary and job outlook. Gastroenterology is an evolving field, with compensation and revenue generated for hospitals growing in the past few years. Here are three statistics about gastroenterologist salary and employment to know:

- According to Medscape's 2019 gastroenterologist compensation report, GIs earn $417,000 on average, including bonuses and profit-sharing contributions.

- Medscape reported in its 2019 physician wealth and debt report that 20 percent of gastroenterologists are worth over $5 million. Forty-six percent reported a net worth of $2 million or more.

- Gastroenterology remains a high earning specialty for both physicians and hospitals, according to the 2019 inpatient/outpatient revenue survey from physician search firm Merritt Hawkins. GIs came in the No. 5 spot for the highest revenue generating specialties, generating $2,965,277 on average.

More articles on gastroenterology:
3 gastroenterologists joining practices this week
Colorado GI practice expands — 3 insights
3 gastroenterology ASCs, practices opened in January

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