Gastroenterologists' top priorities before the end of the year

From increased colorectal cancer screenings to improving care access, four gastroenterologists joined Becker's to discuss their top priorities to close out the year. 

Editor's note: These responses were edited lightly for brevity and clarity. 

John Martin, MD. Gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.):

  1. Access, access, access! Demand is high for elective, semi-urgent and urgent cases, while staffing remains a challenge
  2. Maintaining patient satisfaction and quality of care in spite of high volume, high demand, access bottlenecks and staffing challenges
  3. Keeping staff and physician morale high through this period of record demand, pressures on access, lingering COVID absences and uncertainties, and staffing challenges
  4. Staff recruitment
  5. Staff retention

Pankaj Vashi, MD. Chief of Gastroenterology/Nutrition Department and Vice Chief of Staff at Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chicago: My priorities for the rest of this year is to continue to make people aware of the importance of screening for colon cancer. Due to the pandemic, there has been a significant drop in the number of people getting screening colonoscopy done. The impact of this could be an increase in colon cancers incidence over the next decade. The earlier age (45) for screening has also increased the need for more providers. Noninvasive screening tests like Cologuard and FIT tests should be considered in average risk patients.

Mark Mattar, MD. Director of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital's IBD Center (Washington, D.C.): My secret to success stems from the framework of transformational servant leadership. Leading in a successful GI practice in a health system as we come out of a pandemic brings its own special challenges. At the end of the day, we focus on the people. We prioritize patient care without compromising associate wellness. We work as a team to evaluate each of the provider's needs and how we can help them work toward our common mission. This isn't easy, but when you pay attention to the needs of the team and act on them, we all succeed.

Omar Khokhar, MD. Gastroenterologist in Bloomington, Ill.: Facilitating access to colonoscopy screening remains a priority. Colorectal cancer screening rates nationwide are still short of our goal of 80 percent. Getting to that number requires a team effort: patient education and awareness, prompt primary care physician referrals, seamless scheduling and a great patient experience throughout the process. Medicine is undergoing a "Starbucks" moment — we need to improve our experience.

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