Family Physicians Providing Endoscopic Care is Declining in Both Rural and Urban Areas

Submitted on Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:58

The number of family physicians providing endoscopic services is significantly declining, according to a recent study. Researchers obtained data from physicians registering for the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) Family Medicine Certification Examination between 2014 and 2016. While rural family physicians performed these services more commonly than urban family physicians, the percentage of family physicians providing flexible sigmoidoscopies and endoscopies declined by almost half. A similar decline was noted for colonoscopies by rural family physicians while urban family physicians did not have a notable decline, but less than 1% provided this service.

The scope of practice by family physicians has declined over the past 10 years in other aspects of family medicine including maternity care, care of children, and women’s health, raising concerns about the availability of high quality, comprehensive care provided by a personal physician for patients, families and communities. Family physicians perform approximately 2% of all colonoscopies in the United States. A commentary on the study written by two national leaders in General Surgery, Drs. James Feimster and John Mellinger, noted the importance of access to endoscopic services, especially in rural and underserved areas, “Family Physicians can, and in all likelihood should, remain part of that equation, given their demonstrated commitment as a specialty to all segments of the population served.” Studies have shown family physicians and primary care physicians can achieve the same benchmark of endoscopic quality as compared to experienced gastroenterologists.

Read the full policy brief in JABFM.