8 Tips for Choosing a Gastroenterologist

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    A Personal Decision
    Knowing that you need to see a gastroenterologist or gastrointestinal (GI) doctor can be worrisome. Most likely, your primary care doctor has recommended that you see a gastroenterologist. How do you find the best gastroenterologist who is right for you? Take the following issues into consideration.

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    1. Get Referrals
    Start with your referral list from your primary care doctor. You can also ask family, friends and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow down your list, call each gastroenterologist’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor.

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    2. Research the Gastroenterologist’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of your most important considerations when choosing a gastroenterologist. Gastroenterologists are specialists board certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology. Board certification tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide GI care. Also confirm that the gastroenterologist has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the gastroenterologist’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.

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    3. Consider the Gastroenterologist’s Experience
    When it comes to specialized medical or surgical care for complex GI problems, the more experience a doctor has, the better your results are likely to be. Be sure your gastroenterologist has graduated from an accredited fellowship training program. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the gastroenterologist has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.

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    4. Consider Gender
    It is important for you to feel comfortable with your gastroenterologist’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Be sure to ask the gastroenterologist about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender. Gastroenterologists are becoming more specialized in caring for women with GI disorders. In addition, some hospitals have specialized GI centers that focus on women’s unique medical needs.

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    5. Research Hospital Quality
    Your doctor’s hospital is your hospital. For this reason, consider the quality of care at the hospital where the gastroenterologist can treat patients. Hospital quality matters to you because patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Additionally, consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. Should you need to go the hospital for tests or treatment, you want the location to encourage, rather than discourage timely care.

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    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a gastroenterologist with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the gastroenterologist, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? During the visit, did your feel rushed or engaged? Find a gastroenterologist who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.

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    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. People typically convey their experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office friendliness in patient reviews. You can learn about how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.

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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a gastroenterologist who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a gastroenterologist from your plan.

8 Tips for Choosing a Gastroenterologist

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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