Access to inflammatory bowel disease speciality care: the primary healthcare physician perspective

Fam Pract. 2021 Feb 22;cmab006. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmab006. Online ahead of print.

Eileen E Burns 1, Holly M Mathias 2, Courtney Heisler 3, Yunsong Cui 4, Olga Kits 5, Sander Veldhuyzen van Zanten 6, Jennifer L Jones 3


Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • 2School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • 3Nova Scotia Collaborative Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program, Division of Digestive Care and Endoscopy, QEII Health Science Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • 4Atlantic Path, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.
  • 5Research Methods Unit, Nova Scotia Health, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • 6Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Background: There is little literature related to access to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) care that incorporates the perspective of key system stakeholders, such as primary healthcare providers (PHCP), despite their clear and integral role in facilitating access.

Objective: This study aimed to identify barriers to referring patients to speciality IBD care as perceived by referring PHCP. In particular, we sought to understand PHCP satisfaction with the current IBD specialist referral system, as well as indicators of geographic variance to access.

Methods: A population-based survey was mailed out to currently practising PHCPs who have referred or who are currently referring patients to IBD speciality care in Nova Scotia (Canada). Descriptive statistics and multivariate analyses were performed. Qualitative comments were themed using framework analysis to identify key barriers.

Results: The majority of PHCP (57%) were dissatisfied with the current referral process due to long patient wait times and perceived system inefficiency. Key areas of geographic variance in access included access to speciality care in the community and patient wait times. PHCPs suggested ideas to improve access including increased gastroenterologist supply, particularly in rural areas, and the creation of a provincial centralized referral and triage process.

Conclusions: PHCPs play an important role in identifying and managing patients with IBD in partnership with gastroenterologists. This study identifies key PHCP perceived barriers that may prevent patients from accessing speciality IBD care. Understanding and addressing barriers to access from multiple stakeholder perspectives, including PHCPs, has the potential to support informed system redesign and overcome access inequities.

© Copyright 2013-2024 GI Health Foundation. All rights reserved.
This site is maintained as an educational resource for US healthcare providers only. Use of this website is governed by the GIHF terms of use and privacy statement.