The factors benefitting, hurting gastroenterology

While technology has given gastroenterologists a leg up in the healthcare industry, there are still several factors that could drive them away from the field.

Benjamin Levy, MD, a gastroenterologist at the University of Chicago Medicine, recently spoke with Becker's to discuss the factors having a positive and negative impact on gastroenterologists.

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What are some factors that may contribute to gastroenterologists leaving the field?

Dr. Benjamin Levy: One of the cool things about working in gastroenterology is that the technology is changing quickly, which has allowed gastroenterologists unique employment opportunities outside of traditional endoscopy and clinic work. Over the past few years, gastroenterologists have been asked to take on leadership roles in pharmaceutical research, with medical device companies (especially as artificial intelligence technology expands) and with companies developing multi-cancer early detection tests. Some gastroenterologists have been recruited to become chief medical officers of huge healthcare systems and chair of medicine because of our knowledge about hospital medicine, clinics and procedures. Like every medical field, greater emphasis needs to be placed on retention. There's a huge need for clinical gastroenterologists in order to increase the national percentage of patients receiving screening colonoscopies. The American Cancer Society's National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable Campaign goal is to reach 80% screening in every community.  

Unfortunately, decreased reimbursement rates have led some older gastroenterologists to enter retirement early. As EHR systems have become increasingly sophisticated with patient messaging, some gastroenterologists have wanted a change in pace due to the amount of extra time spent at night after clinic and procedures. The key to retention is having protected administrative time for patient messaging and follow-up. The gastroenterology field should be mindful of physician burnout, so that our proceduralists keep scoping late into their careers. Also, having more gastroenterologists in our field would improve call schedules and our national colorectal cancer screening percentages. It would be awesome to increase the number of [Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education] gastroenterology fellowship spots nationally.

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