5 issues GI execs are obsessing over

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From private-equity investment to new screening recommendations, gastroenterology leaders are focusing on several industry shifts.

Two GI execs spoke to Becker's ASC Review on the issues they're focusing on in 2021. 

1. Reimbursement for CRC screening 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published recommendations May 18 for colorectal cancer screenings to include patients at 45 years old instead of 50 years old, but GI leaders have found that some payers haven't yet adjusted. 

"Several of our major payers have already adopted this as part of their benefit design, but there are payers lagging behind," said Jerry Tillinger, CEO of Exton, Pa.-based US Digestive Health. "Connecting with our patients and employers to make sure they are considering their benefit choices carefully is a key part of our 2021-22 community outreach."

Taylor Blackman, executive director of Concord, N.C.-based Northeast Digestive, echoed these thoughts — she said she's concerned about payers following the recommendations to include the screening as a preventative benefit. 

2. Private-equity investment

GI is seeing an explosion of private equity investment — dominated mainly by GastroHealth, the GI Alliance, United Digestive and US Digestive Health.

Ms. Blackman told Becker's ASC Review that she's focusing on new activity and developments from preestablished private-equity entities. 

3. Capacity demands

Colorectal cancer screening procedures dropped more than 80 percent in the early stages of the pandemic, leaving some GI practices struggling to meet market demands. Paired with the recommendation for colorectal cancer screenings at 45 years old, demand is high. 

"Ensuring that we have the right physical [center], the right provider teams and the right operational plan to care for all of these patients is at the top of our list," Mr. Tillinger said.

4. New technology

Artificial intelligence and telemedicine are just some examples of the growing presence new technologies are taking on in gastroenterology services.

"As always [I'm paying attention to] new technologies emerging within the field, whether that means new CRC screening methods, new scope technologies or AI software," Ms. Blackman said. 

5. Workplace quality

Workplace quality is key for GI practices to succeed, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Our providers and staff were extraordinary throughout COVID-19, placing themselves on the front lines of patient care even in the toughest times during the pandemic," Mr. Tillinger said. "They are the heart and soul of our patient care programs. Making sure they get the care and attention they need is a top priority for USDH."

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