MANUSCRIPT: The role of primary care physicians in early diagnosis and treatment of chronic gastrointestinal diseases.
Chronic gastrointestinal disorders are a source of substantial morbidity, mortality, and cost. They are common in general practice, and the primary care physician PCP has a central role in the early detection and management of these problems. The need to make cost-effective diagnostic and treatment decisions, avoid unnecessary investigation and referral, provide long-term effective control of symptoms, and minimize the risk of complications constitute the main challenges that PCPs face. The literature review shows that, although best practice standards are available, a considerable number of PCPs do not routinely follow them. Low rates of colorectal cancer screening, suboptimal testing and treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection, inappropriate use of proton pump inhibitors, and the fact that most PCPs are still approaching the irritable bowel disease as a diagnosis of exclusion represent the main gaps between evidence-based guidelines and clinical practice. This manuscript points out that updating of knowledge and skills of PCPs via continuing medical education is the only way for better adherence with standards and improving quality of care for patients with gastrointestinal diseases.