Objective: Colposcopy is performed by different providers, including nurse practitioners, family physicians, and gynecologists. The training and experience of these providers vary. The fiscal impact of provider type is unknown. This study evaluates pathology resource use by gynecologists and nongynecologists at the time of colposcopy.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed. Data were collected by review of pathology reports and records of all patients with cervical dysplasia treated with cervical excision by loop electrosurgical excision procedure or cold knife conization at our institution between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 1997. Data were analyzed according to type of provider performing the colposcopy before the cervical excision.
Results: Gynecologists obtained a total of 190 biopsy specimens in 127 patients, with a mean number of 1.5 +/- 0.75 per patient and a median of 1. Nongynecologists took a total of 148 biopsy specimens in 44 patients, with a mean of 3.4 +/- 1.14 per patient and a median of 3 (P < .001). These differences persisted irrespective of presenting cytology. Nongynecologists were more likely to do endocervical curettage than gynecologists (95% compared with 82%, respectively, P < .001). Cervical dysplasia was diagnosed equally well, even though fewer biopsies were taken by gynecologists.
Conclusion: Both groups of providers were equally capable of identifying dysplastic lesions. Despite equivalent diagnostic accuracy, nongynecologists used two to three times more pathology resources. If this pattern of use of resources exists at other clinical sites, patients with cervical dysplasia and payers would be better served by gynecologic rather than nongynecologic care.