How Far Would You Travel for the Best GI Care?
Last updated: June 2022
I grew up in a small town just outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania until I moved to Philadelphia for college in 2004, and have been a resident of the City of Brotherly Love ever since. Living with Crohn's, I am fortunate that Philly is known for having reputable hospitals and top-notch healthcare, both in the city and its surrounding suburbs. Knowing that I am close to several great GI practices puts my mind at ease should I need urgent medical care for my disease, and it is not lost on me that if I were to still live where I grew up, my health would likely not be as in good shape as it is today.
It is not uncommon for small towns to lag in medical care compared to larger cities. And, for those who are living with a chronic illness where every misdiagnosis or minor oversight could drastically change the course of the disease, seeing a top-notch doctor is critical.
Going the distance for a top-notch gastroenterologist
I know many IBD patients have traveled hundreds of miles by car, or even had to take a plane, to see a doctor who could most help them. This always makes me give pause, wondering how far I would travel for the best care. Is it worth the expense of a plane ticket? Is the GI truly worth driving 5+ hours just to be seen for 15 minutes? What would it take for me to travel, and how far would I travel, to see a doctor?
I have come to the conclusion that there is no distance too far that would stop me from receiving the best treatment for my Crohn's. However, there are a few questions I would ask myself when determining where I choose to see a GI.
How available is your IBD doctor when you need them?
First is accessibility. Many members of my family have GI issues and seek treatment outside of our hometown. They typically choose a medial provider in Philadelphia or New York, as both are equidistant to where they live, which is about a 2 hour drive away. However, driving to Philly versus NYC is much easier with less traffic, so if there is a reputable GI who they can see in Philly, that is the preferred choice.
Another factor to consider is how quickly you can see your physician should you have an issue that needs urgent care. Typically, it takes about 6 months as a new patient to see a GI, but will it also take 6 months to see your doctor if you experience a flare or negative side effect? It may be worth traveling a little further to see a reputable doctor if he/she can see you more quickly than someone who is closer to where you live.
What are the GI doctor's specialties?
Lastly, I suggest checking on the GI's specialties. It is wise to see a doctor who specializes in Crohn's or ulcerative colitis (not all of them do!), and some only work with patients who have unique cases. The more specific of a specialty your doctor has the better, and it is worth looking into their bio and background to make sure they are not only the best, but the best for your specific needs.
Maybe you need someone who is well-versed in treating patients who have ostomies and want to become pregnant. Perhaps seeing a doctor who has worked with a lot of patients who have both Crohn's and colitis is right for you. The more specialized the individual is on a subject the better, as that means they have a lot of experience working with patients like you and can most likely offer treatment plan suggestions that others cannot.
So is the trip worth it?
At the end of the day, you have to choose a doctor who is best for you. They may not necessarily be "the best" but as long as it is the proper care that you need, or even a second opinion to ensure you are treating your IBD correctly is worth the trip.
Some patients avoid seeing doctors who are more than an hour's drive away from their homes, and that is ok. Others will go to great lengths to make sure no stone is unturned when dealing with their disease, which is also acceptable. You have to do what is best for you, and if that means seeing a doctor from another state on a different coast, then go for it.
How far have you traveled for a GI, and was it worth it?
What has been the most helpful for managing IBD symptoms?