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Growing Shortage of Gastroenterologists to Affect Screening Capacity for #2 Cancer Killer

"GI Gap" To Worsen as the U.S. Population Ages; Projected Demand for Gastroenterologists is Growing at Nearly Double the Rate of Supply

Olympus Seeks Legislative Solution and Increased Awareness to Proactively Increase Number of Gastroenterology Fellowships

Washington, D.C., January 7, 2009- The United States is facing a shortage of gastroenterologists (GIs) that will total at least 1,050 of these specialty physicians by 2020, according to a first of its kind study from Olympus and The Lewin Group, a national healthcare and human services consulting firm. The new research illustrates that the aging population and increased colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates will overwhelm the supply of GI physicians, challenging the nation's ability to provide adequate screening and treatment for the nation's number two cancer killer.

The Lewin research was commissioned by Olympus, the global leader in endoscopy, as part of a campaign to raise awareness about colorectal cancer screening and ensure screening is available to all who seek it. The new data was unveiled today and is available at www.olympusamerica.com/crcadvocacy.

"This GI shortage is a major concern for the U.S. healthcare system and Olympus is dedicated to finding solutions that increase the number of gastroenterologists and make CRC screening widely accessible," said F. Mark Gumz, president and CEO of Olympus Corporation of the Americas. "With approximately 149,000 new cases of colorectal cancer projected to be diagnosed in 2008, and an estimated 50,000 Americans projected to die from this treatable and beatable disease each year, it is critical to ensure that the U.S. has a sufficient workforce of trained gastroenterologists." In 2008, the supply of GI physicians active in patient care was estimated to be 10,390.

Gumz continued, "While the current shortage of gastroenterologists is not vastly different from other medical disciplines, the only feasible method for closing the 'GI gap' is to start expanding the number of GI fellowships now, a process that will take several years to show results." The Lewin study found that training approximately 130 additional GIs per year (a 33 percent increase from current planned levels) starting in 2011 would increase supply by 1,550 gastroenterologists by 2020.

Olympus is committed to broad efforts to address the growing shortage of trained gastroenterologist and increase colorectal cancer screening rates by helping to educate, inform and create awareness about colorectal cancer through direct consumer outreach, collaborating with professional medical societies and advocacy groups and coordinating efforts with federal health agencies. One legislative option Olympus is spearheading would dedicate federal funding for additional GI fellowships, including a public service component for physicians trained under the program, and direct the Department of Health and Human Services to study the GI workforce going forward. The estimated cost of new CRC cases was $8.3 billion in 2007, with Medicare paying at least $2.4 billion of this total. A federal investment in GI fellowships today can not only overcome the physician shortage, it can yield significant healthcare cost savings in the near term by making preventative screening more widely available.

The Lewin study employed two proprietary simulation models—the National Colorectal Screening Model and the Physician Supply and Demand Model—to arrive at the unique GI workforce and CRC screening projections such as:

  • If current age and gender screening rates remain constant, the aging population alone will create a shortage of 1,050 gastroenterologists by 2020. Under a scenario where national CRC screening rates increase by 10 percent, the shortage of gastroenterologists rises to approximately 1,550 over the same timeframe.
  • If the nation sees a 10 percent increase in CRC screening rates over the next decade, the total annual number of screenings (beyond the anticipated growth associated with an aging population) increases by approximately 600,000 in the short term and by approximately 1,500,000 by 2020.

"This study finds that the projected demand for gastroenterologists is growing at nearly double the rate of supply," said Tim Dall, vice president at The Lewin Group and the study's author. "The shortfall of gastroenterologists could limit the nation's ability to implement national guidelines for CRC screening, particularly in traditionally underserved communities."

"ASGE recognizes and appreciates the service Olympus has provided in commissioning this report. The population is aging, therefore the numbers of people who will be candidates for colorectal cancer screening is increasing, making screening capacity a critical issue," said John L. Petrini, MD, FASGE, president, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. "To keep the most highly qualified and cost-efficient colorectal cancer screening in effect, we need to address the upcoming shortage of qualified colonoscopists."

"The American College of Gastroenterology applauds Olympus and The Lewin Group for shining a light on the nation's anticipated need for well-trained and highly skilled endoscopists to enhance and improve our ability to screen for colorectal cancer, a deadly killer," observed Eamonn M.M. Quigley, MD, FACG, President of the American College of Gastroenterology. "There is no question that policymakers need to focus on the challenges gastroenterologists and other physicians will face as the American population ages."

"The confluence of an aging population, improvements in technology, fluxes in the economic milieu and changes in disease prevalence/impact will act in concert to place new unprecedented pressure on GI service delivery," said Patrick I. Okolo III, MD, MPH, Chief of Endoscopy, Division of Gastroenterology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "A comprehensive focused national approach to broaden the number and quality of physicians trained in gastroenterology will be necessary to obviate this divide.

About Olympus
Olympus is a precision technology leader, creating innovative opto-digital solutions in healthcare, life science and consumer electronics products. Olympus works collaboratively with its customers and its affiliates worldwide to leverage R&D investment in precision technology and manufacturing processes across diverse business lines. These include:

  • Gastrointestinal endoscopes, accessories, and minimally invasive surgical products;
  • Advanced clinical and research microscopes;
  • Lab automation systems, chemistry-immuno and blood bank analyzers and reagents;
  • Digital cameras and voice recorders.

Olympus serves healthcare and commercial laboratory markets with integrated product solutions and financial, educational and consulting services that help customers to efficiently, reliably and more easily achieve exceptional results. Olympus develops breakthrough technologies with revolutionary product design and functionality for the consumer and professional photography markets, and also is the leader in gastrointestinal endoscopy and clinical and educational microscopes. For more information, visit www.olympusamerica.com.

About The Lewin Group
The Lewin Group is a premier national health care and human services consulting firm with more than 35 years' experience finding answers and solving problems for leading organizations in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. With its industry experience and knowledge, The Lewin Group provides its clients with high-quality products and insightful support to help them maximize the delivery of programs and services that make a difference in the lives of their constituents. For more information on The Lewin Group, visit http://www.lewin.com.

For more information:

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Elizabeth Sullivan
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elizabeth.sullivan@olympus.com


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