What Do Digestive Health Specialists Do?

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  • Written By: Nick Mann
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2018
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Digestive health specialists, or gastroenterologists, are physicians who treat internal digestive structures like the stomach, esophagus and intestines. In most cases, these individuals work in either a private practice or for a public medical facility. Training for this profession is rather rigorous and usually requires a bachelor's degree in internal medicine and four years of medical school. Some common responsibilities of digestive health specialists include consulting with patients, performing tests, making a diagnosis, providing treatment and maintaining patient records.

Consulting with patients is something that digestive health specialists do on a daily basis. During the consultation, a specialist will meet with a patient to get a better understanding of what digestive problems a patient is experiencing. The specialist might ask about what symptoms the patient has, how long those symptoms have been occurring and their severity. This is the first step in developing a diagnosis.

The next part of each patient's visit typically involves performing some tests. For example, the specialist might perform an endoscopy where he uses a long tube to view parts of a patient's digestive system. Digestive health specialists may also perform a physical examination and do some blood tests as well. In addition, they will sometimes contact a patient's primary physician to ask questions and obtain further information.


Upon the completion of a consultation and testing, digestive health specialists should have an idea of the nature of a patient's digestive ailments. Using this information, they will then make a diagnosis. In some cases, an ailment may be minimal and easily treated with medication or dietary changes. Other times, the ailment may be more severe and require surgery. Regardless of the diagnosis, it's important for digestive health specialists to be professional and sympathetic to the patient's condition.

After a diagnosis has been formed, a specialist will provide the appropriate treatment. In the case of a mild ailment, he may prescribe the patient some type of medication. For worse cases, he may perform a surgical procedure himself or recommend treatment from another professional. If a patient is experiencing life threatening symptoms, he may even perform emergency surgery.

In addition, it's up to digestive health specialists to maintain patient records. This involves keeping up-to-date and accurate documentation of the patient's name, health history, primary physician, digestive ailments, diagnosis and treatment. Usually, this information will be stored both electronically and in paper files. Maintaining these records is important for future reference and for sharing with other doctors.



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