Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 188–194 | Cite as

Differences between generalists and specialists in characteristics of patients receiving gastrointestinal procedures

  • Gregg S. Meyer
  • Eme Y. Cheng
  • Jeffrey Elting
Original Articles


BACKGROUND: As a result of market forces and maturing technology, generalists are currently providing services, such as colonoscopy, that in the past were deemed the realm of specialists.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether there were differences in patient characteristics, procedure complexity, and clinical indications when gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures were provided by generalists versus specialists.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

PATIENTS: A random 5% sample of aged Medicare beneficiaries who underwent rigid and flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) performed by specialists (gastroenterologists, general surgeons, and colorectal surgeons) or generalists (general practitioners, family practitioners, and general internists).

MEASUREMENTS: Characteristics of patients, indications for the procedure, procedural complexity, and place of service were compared between generalists and specialists using descriptive statistics and logistic regression.

MAIN RESULTS: Our sample population had 167,347 gastrointestinal endoscopies. Generalists performed 7.7% of the 57,221 colonoscopies, 8.7% of the 62,469 EGDs, 42.7% of the 38,261 flexible sigmoidoscopies, and 35.2% of the 9,396 rigid sigmoidoscopies. Age and gender of patients were similar between generalists and specialists, but white patients were more likely to receive complex endoscopy from specialists. After adjusting for patient differences in age, race, and gender, generalists were more likely to have provided a simple diagnostic procedure (odds ratio [OR] 4.2; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 4.0, 4.4), perform the procedure for examination and screening purposes (OR 4.9; 95% CI, 4.3 to 5.6), and provide these procedures in rural areas (OR 1.5; 95% CI 1.4 to 1.6).

CONCLUSIONS: Although generalists perform the full spectrum of gastrointestinal endoscopies, their procedures are often of lower complexity and less likely to have been performed for investigating severe morbidities.

Key words

colonoscopy esophagogastroduodenoscopy sigmoidoscopy generalist physician specialist physician practice patterns 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregg S. Meyer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eme Y. Cheng
    • 2
  • Jeffrey Elting
    • 3
  1. 1.Agency for Healthcare Research and QualityCenter for Quality Measurement and ImprovementRockville
  2. 2.Departments of Medicine and Preventive Medicine & BiometricsThe Uniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesda
  3. 3.National Defense UniversityWashington, DC

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