Why decreased reimbursements pose a threat to gastroenterology

Decreased reimbursements can cause some major issues for patients and providers in the gastroenterology space.  

Benjamin Levy III, MD, a gastroenterologist at University of Chicago Medicine, spoke with Becker's to discuss how decreased reimbursements are a threat to gastroenterology. 

Note: This response has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is the biggest threat to the gastroenterology industry?

Dr. Benjamin Levy: I would say decreased reimbursements. That's concerning because GI practices and endoscopy centers and hospitals require so many staff to take care of our patients. There's a cost to have nurses, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists or CRNAs and people that process insurance. So anytime we talk about decreased reimbursements, that puts a squeeze on the amount of money that's coming in to pay for all this required staff in order to do our job the best possible way that we can.

I think that healthcare systems and GI practices in general are always trying to make their practice as efficient as possible. So when there's decreased reimbursements, there are certain practices, not every practice, but there's certain practices that are going to feel like they need to squeeze in additional patients in order to be making the same amount of money that they were before the decreased reimbursement rate. That's concerning because I think that where you see this the most is probably in clinic, where the allotted time per patient may get squeezed because of the need to see increased volume. And again, this is only certain practices. I think most gastroenterologists are really, really good about not decreasing the amount of time they spend with patients. But there are going to be certain practices out there that try to see more patients per day. Physicians don't want to feel rushed when they see patients. We want to provide the best possible care.

Whether that time is decreased from 20 minutes to 15 minutes or 30 minutes to 25 minutes, any time you increase the volume that you see in clinic, there's potential in certain practices I think to not spend as much time per patient. That is potentially bad for healthcare because we want to not feel rushed.

I want to emphasize it's only certain practices that may do that, but we don't want to create a scenario where any practice feels like they need to do that. We want to maximize the amount of time spent per patient and patients want that too. Patients love it when they have more time with the doctor. So for the same reason, we don't want to decrease reimbursements because we want to have an adequate amount of time per patient.

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