3 GI execs on the future of outpatient gastroenterology

Healthcare has long been an industry of innovation, and in many ways gastroenterology is at the forefront. But what does that mean for the future?

Three gastroenterology leaders spoke with Becker's about looming labor shortages, GI independence and the evolving culture of GI practices.

Question: In the old days, we were fortunate to have lots of magnificent physicians coming from other countries that filled a lot of workforce gaps. How are we going to deal with this going forward?

Michael Weinstein, MD. President and CEO at Capital Digestive Care (Silver Spring, Md.): I think big groups are handling this in a way that allows the more specialized gastroenterologists to do the things that require the higher level of training and more technical skills. And they're utilizing advanced practice providers, they're utilizing technology to provide some support for patients for non-technical services. So nurse practitioners, physician assistants and technology is going to replace some of the need for the actual gastroenterologist.

It takes 13 years to train a gastroenterologist. It only takes three or four years to train an APP. 

Question: What does the future of independence and GI physicians look like?

Tracy Belsan. Market President for PE GI Solutions (Jamison, Pa.): For the independent GI, they really value that spirit of maintaining their independence. So working with PE GI Solutions, or collaborating with us, is really important for them, because they get the benefit of our expertise on the business and clinical aspects of practice. But they also get to maintain their independence, while still partnering with hospitals, having privileges at hospitals and doing procedures there, but also maintaining that sense of running their own business and really controlling their own destiny.

Question: What does it mean to build the GI practice of the future?

Rajiv Sharma, MD. Owner of Digestive Health Associates (Terre Haute, Ind.): I've seen the way things have transitioned in the world of GI and the personality of our GIs, and at the same time the shift in consumer behavior, patient behavior and their yearning and thirst for education and engagement. I want to use technology to the max to engage with the consumers one on one. Long gone are the days when you won't even talk to the patient and just do your thing, do your scope. 

You have to go the extra mile to make sure they're satisfied. They're evaluating you in the waiting area, they're looking at everything, especially the millennials. So my goal is to create a very immersive gastroenterology practice, where I'll be using augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and then cloud-based platforms to keep my patients engaged so that they are constantly reminded of our brand. We are no different than McDonald's and Burger King or any other brand out there.

We have to have a face and a personality to the practice. So my goal is to make this a Starbucks experience. You come to my practice, you're going to place your order and you're going to be served like Starbucks. Maybe I'll even put Starbucks in my office. 

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