How to choose an IBD Doctor

IBD is a complicated condition and a “one size fits all” approach to treatment does not work. Successful treatment is dependent on your choice of specialist to manage your IBD.

1. A medical gastroenterologist is best suited to manage IBD. There are less than 100 medical gastroenterologists in South Africa so finding a medical gastroenterologist in your area may be difficult. A surgical gastroenterologist can also manage IBD. Always check that the doctor you have chosen has the appropriate training and experience in managing IBD.

2. IBD treatment is a “team sport”. Successful treatment, particularly for complicated cases,  is dependent on a team made up of a medical gastroenterologist, surgeon (if surgery may be needed), an experienced radiologist to perform your x-rays and scans, a pathologist to look at any biopsies taken during an endoscopy procedure, an IBD nurse and a dietician. Good communication between the team members and the patient is essential for a good outcome.

3. Participating in decision making. IBD treatment comes with a number of options in terms of medication and surgery. On rare occasions IBD can be life threatening and your doctor will need to make an urgent treatment decision but for most other situations the patient should be allowed to participate in treatment decisions.
A doctor who refuses to allow you to take part in any decision making should be avoided.

4. Patient advocacy. Ensuring your medical aid approves the correct treatment for your IBD is often an unpleasant task for most doctors as it involves form filling, written motivations and time spent on the phone to your medical aid. However without your medical aid approval treatment will not be covered. A doctor who refuses to deal with medical aid approvals regarding your treatment is best avoided.

5. Availability. IBD is a life long illness and most patients will experience a flare of their condition at some time or another. This may occur after hours, on weekends or public holidays, or when your doctor is on leave. It is important your doctor has a clear plan for his patients should he or she not be available.