If you have an inflammatory bowel disease, it's not always obvious which doctor to see for treatment. Gastrointestinal doctors are not all alike. They differ in their training and experience.
Clearly, the doctor that you choose will have a direct impact on how well you do -- especially when you need treatment for a complex gastrointestinal condition. There are a number of things to consider when deciding which doctor to seek care from. Consider the following:
No one diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis understands everything about their condition. Scientists and doctors don’t. Researchers have spent millions trying to figure it out.
So when someone doesn’t know what IBD is all about -- that those letters stand for inflammatory bowel disease, or that it's an umbrella term for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis -- we shouldn’t be surprised.
These diseases are complicated. They look different with every person. And they’re often uncomfortable...
The doctor's qualifications. (For example, the doctor's credentials and experience; does he or she participate in research and education? What range of services does he or she offer?)
Location of office
Outcome. (How well patients have done after being under his or her care.)
When looking into a hospital, consider:
How many surgeries or procedures the hospital provides? If the hospital performs a high number of surgeries or procedures you may need, it is probably a good choice.
Hospital's death rate.
Experience and training of its surgeons.
Where Do I Begin Looking for a Doctor?
Measuring quality in ways that are useful to people is a relatively new idea in health care and it may not be easy to get the information you need to make a quality decision. But the willingness of providers to give you as much information as possible is a good sign. It shows that they are dedicated to maintaining and improving their quality and responsiveness to patients, and that they are confident in their capabilities.
If you or a loved one needs treatment for a gastrointestinal disease, ask your primary care doctor about seeing a specialist in gastroenterology or colorectal surgery. This specialist should have experience in the diagnosis and full range of treatments for your specific condition. Ask for a referral to a hospital with a multidisciplinary treatment team.
Also, get the names of several doctors and hospitals that offer the newest, most effective treatments as well as clinical trials that compare the latest drugs with experimental drugs, which may provide even better results.