Background: Surveillance of patients with Barrett esophagus (BE) is recommended to detect dysplasia and early cancer. In 1998, practice guidelines for the surveillance of patients with BE were developed under the auspices of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). Our objective is to assess physicians' awareness of agreement with and adherence to these guidelines.
Methods: A national prospective cohort study of practicing gastroenterologists who completed a self-administered questionnaire containing case studies prior to the release of the guidelines and another survey 18 months later. Analysis of adherence to the guidelines was done using the McNemar chi(2) test.
Results: Of the 154 gastroenterologists (66%) who responded to the follow-up survey, more than half (55%) were aware of the guidelines, and members of the ACG were more likely to know of their existence than nonmembers (61% vs 38%; P =.01). Overall, about 27% of physicians reported practicing in accordance with the guidelines at baseline; adherence increased modestly to 38% in the 18-month follow-up (P =.04) and was inversely related to fee-for-service reimbursement. Awareness was not associated with an increased likelihood of adherence, but agreement with the guidelines was strongly correlated with adherence (P<.001). The most frequent reasons for disagreement were concerns about liability, cancer risk, and inadequate evidence.
Conclusions: Awareness of the guidelines published by the ACG was low. Guideline awareness did not predict adherence. Improvement in guideline adherence will require steps beyond mere dissemination and promotion. Addressing disagreements about liability, disease risk, and scientific evidence as well as restructuring payment incentives may help achieve optimal practice.