Background & Aims: Since Medicare approval for reimbursement of screening colonoscopies, the number of colonoscopy requests has increased. Physician resources have often been inadequate to meet the demand. We sought to reduce the demand for colonoscopy in an open endoscopy system by using a guideline-based triage system to eliminate inappropriate procedures and to align the timing of surveillance colonoscopies with recommendations made by national organizations. Methods: This was a cohort study with primary care outpatients. From October 2002 to February 2003, 498 consecutive patients on a waiting list of 2400 awaiting colonoscopy for all indications were triaged and are the focus of the study. Selection of patients for appropriate colonoscopy was based on consensus guidelines developed for institutional use by using established published guidelines for appropriate colonoscopy indications. Results: Of the 498 consecutive patients triaged, 139 (28%) were deemed inappropriate. The most common reason was inappropriate referral for surveillance of colorectal polyps. The percentage of inappropriate referrals by the 3 largest referring specialties (internal medicine, family medicine, and gastroenterology) combined was also 28% with no statistically significant differences between specialties. Conclusions: Most referrals for colonoscopy in an open-access endoscopy system were appropriate, although about 1 in 4 were not. Use of triage and further education of physicians regarding colonoscopy may optimize colonoscopy utilization.
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