Gastroenterology's colonoscopy boom: How a CEO is harnessing growing demand

 The gastroenterology industry has experienced an increase in colonoscopy demand as the recommended age for screening continues to lower and colorectal cancer cases continue to rise. 

Jerry Tillinger, CEO of US Digestive Health, joined Becker' to discuss how his team is handling the increase in demand. 

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

Question: How is your team affected by decreased colonoscopy reimbursements paired with an increase in demand?

Jerry Tillinger: The increased demand for GI services has been keeping our providers extremely busy. We've been able to offset the cuts in Medicare reimbursement by improving our efficiency and throughput. The increase in demand has allowed us to improve our schedule utilization, so we are growing as a business despite Medicare. We've also seen an increase in our ability to detect pathology with tools like GI Genius, so our adenoma detection rate is rising quickly. This is particularly important given the rise in cases of colorectal cancer in the younger population. Overall, we're seeing that revenue line remain strong as we've been able to increase the number of cases each day.

Q: What's your team's strategy in increasing this utilization?

JT: It's a nuts-and-bolts project in every GI group. My staff works with their affiliated ASC to make sure we've got as much patient access as we can possibly get. We have more and more centers that are running extended hours compared to what they used to – more centers open on Saturday because the demand from patients continues to rise. Particularly with the younger population, patients have trouble getting off work to come in for a procedure. By offering appointments either earlier or later in the day, and running Saturday clinics when we can, we can reach those patients. 

That does run headlong into the workforce challenges that all businesses are facing right now — making sure we have enough high-quality employees. We're very thoughtful about how many Saturdays we run. We do not want to increase burnout among our providers or our staff, but we have been able to offer more of those opportunities in the last year than we have historically.

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