Recommended colonoscopies at 40? What will disrupt the GI industry next

U.S. Digestive Health CEO Jerry Tillinger recently joined Becker's to discuss what he thinks will disrupt the gastroenterology industry next. 

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

Question: What will disrupt the GI industry next?

Jerry Tillinger: It's a rapidly moving industry — there's technology changes, there's medicine changes and there's a ton of things that are hitting us all the time. But the one that I think is actually going to drive the most change for us is the rapid growth and the demand for outpatient procedures as we've moved the bar for colonoscopy screening from 50 to 45.

And honestly, I don't think we're that far from moving it down to 40. In the conversations we have around the market, the public is very interested in not dying of colon cancer. And every time you have an announcement of someone they've heard of who dies of colon cancer because they weren't diagnosed till they were 38 and they were already at stage 4, they start to wonder why they're waiting till they're 45 or 50. So as I find more and more patients have gone and gotten screened early, I think we're gonna continue to see this demand for screening access. And I don't think the liquid biopsy of stool testing is good enough yet, so I think that we're still gonna see what we're seeing is the demand for us to provide outpatient procedures at our endoscopy centers is driving faster than I can recruit and build.

We're on a massive recruiting cycle, and we're on a massive building cycle to get more rooms available. I think the corollary to that will be more and more pressure on the hospitals. And as we have that demand coming, we're doing less and less time in the hospital for the physicians because frankly the quality of life level is a big deal for the physicians. We get the young graduates coming out frequently saying that if they have to be in the hospital more than a certain amount, they won't take the job. So I think we're gonna continue to see the number of hospitals that offer GI coverage going down, and the ones that do will continue to get busier. 

We're seeing this weird rebalancing of service happening in the market, certainly in the Pennsylvania and Delaware markets. We see that now that the opportunity cost for the practice to take somebody out of the endoscopy center and put them at the hospital is pretty significant. And when we're competing for talented physicians with health systems that are willing to throw big salaries around, we have to obviously focus on making sure we can keep up in the race.

So it's creating this pressure that I think you're gonna see the practices doing more and more outpatient work and you're gonna see the hospital struggling to get coverage for GI at the macro level.

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