The future of gastroenterology: 5 leaders' insights

From new technologies to physician autonomy, here are five leaders' perspectives on where the GI industry is headed.

Editor's note: Responses were edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Latha Alaparthi, MD. President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Digestive Health Physicians Association (Silver Spring, Md.): In GI, I'm really excited about newer medications, [such as] other modes of delivery where there's cognitive behavioral therapy or alternative therapies for some of these psychosomatic issues that we tackle on a day-to-day basis and all the [artificial intelligence] and database delivery changes that we may make. I don't know what the data actually will bring us in terms of interventions that we can change, but I think we are just at the beginning of collecting data since [electronic health records] have become so widely adapted now. It'll be interesting to see that information play out in the next few years as well.

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Kevin Finnegan, MD. Gastroenterologist with One GI and Associated Endoscopy (Brentwood, Tenn.): Gastroenterology is becoming a lot more specialized, but certainly there's a lot more focus on specific disease processes. There's not just colon cancer screening — there's chronic liver disease and management of folks with chronic liver disease. Fatty liver disease is becoming an epidemic in our country, and we're seeing more individuals with chronic liver disease related to fatty liver. I think treatment and development of treatments for these conditions will continue to grow in gastroenterology.

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Bill Snyder. CEO of Vivante Health: When I think about the future of GI tech, it's going to be hyperpersonalized. It goes back to the ability for us to collect data from all these different sources. Whether that's a platform like [Vivante Health's] or through a smartwatch or different wearables pulling in things like … notes from the care team [when] you go in and see your different providers or gastroenterologist or doctor. It's the aggregation of all that information to really know the patient. That's the gap that we need to continue to focus on as we really personalize the experience and know what people are going through. I think there's an opportunity to add all types of different information when you think about social determinants of health. There's individuals out there that might not have access to fresh food, for example. So how do we gain that information on a member and personalize it so their experience is meaningful? Just like everything else in our lives. When we try and watch something on Netflix, they know exactly what we like and are helping guide our choices. Anything we do today is all about personalization. I think that's a big opportunity that will get better and better over the next five to 10 years.

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Jerry Tillinger. CEO of U.S. Digestive Health (Exton, Pa.): The evolution of GI practices is really in a full transition right now. For many, many decades there have generally been smaller local practices, and they've been able to succeed in that model very well. But as you've seen consolidation among health systems and among payers, those small practices have found themselves under-resourced to have a strong voice in the overall healthcare community. So they've been coming together in different ways. In some cases they've been able to form larger independent GI groups on their own and there are some really great examples of those out in the market. But for many other practices, they simply haven't been able to provide the capital and infrastructure to do that successfully.

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Michael Wallace, MD. Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Mayo Clinic/Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (Abu Dhabi): Everything we look at through an endoscope is now being applied through an [artificial intelligence] lens. The polyp detection is the most obvious application of that — it's the low-hanging fruit. What we're going to see quite rapidly now is AI applied to everything else that we look at.

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