Who is Responsible for What Happens Before, During, and After Colonoscopy? Results of a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians

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Background and Aims:

Primary care providers (PCPs) play a critical role in colon cancer screening by initiating referrals to gastroenterologists for colonoscopy, but little is known about their role in pre-colonoscopy bowel preparation selection and pre-colonoscopy follow-up care. This study aimed to better understand coordination of care between PCPs and gastroenterologists as well as the current availability of “open-access” screening colonoscopy.


A multiple-choice survey was developed to assess PCPs’ experiences with open-access colonoscopy, their involvement in the pre-colonoscopy process, and follow-up after colonoscopy. The survey was distributed electronically to a nationally representative sample of PCPs, via the American College of Physicians (ACP) Research Center’s Internal Medicine Insider Research Panel.


Of 442 PCPs invited to participate, 210 responded (response rate, 210/442, 48%), and 29 were ineligible (spent <25% of their time on clinical care or placed no referrals to colonoscopy), yielding 181 completed surveys. A total of 39% reported that open access was “rarely” or “never” available in their practice setting. The majority reported that pre-colonoscopy care was coordinated by gastroenterologists rather than PCPs. For example, 93% reported that gastroenterologists were responsible for bowel preparation selection in their practice setting. Post-colonoscopy, 54% of PCPs reported that they were responsible for ordering subsequent colonoscopies.


PCPs frequently coordinate follow-up care postprocedure but play a relatively minor role in the pre-colonoscopy bowel preparation process. Open access availability for screening colonoscopy remains limited in this national sample of PCPs.

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