Published online Apr 28, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i16.5056
Peer-review started: July 27, 2014
First decision: September 15, 2014
Revised: September 18, 2014
Accepted: December 14, 2014
Article in press: December 22, 2014
Published online: April 28, 2015
AIM: To examine the available evidence on safety, competency and cost-effectiveness of nursing staff providing gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy services.
METHODS: The literature was searched for publications reporting nurse endoscopy using several databases and specific search terms. Studies were screened against eligibility criteria and for relevance. Initial searches yielded 74 eligible and relevant articles; 26 of these studies were primary research articles using original datasets relating to the ability of non-physician endoscopists. These publications included a total of 28883 procedures performed by non-physician endoscopists.
RESULTS: The number of publications in the field of non-specialist gastrointestinal endoscopy reached a peak between 1999 and 2001 and has decreased thereafter. 17/26 studies related to flexible sigmoidoscopies, 5 to upper GI endoscopy and 6 to colonoscopy. All studies were from metropolitan centres with nurses working under strict supervision and guidance by specialist gastroenterologists. Geographic distribution of publications showed the majority of research was conducted in the United States (43%), the United Kingdom (39%) and the Netherlands (7%). Most studies conclude that after appropriate training nurse endoscopists safely perform procedures. However, in relation to endoscopic competency, safety or patient satisfaction, all studies had major methodological limitations. Patients were often not randomized (21/26 studies) and not appropriately controlled. In relation to cost-efficiency, nurse endoscopists were less cost-effective per procedure at year 1 when compared to services provided by physicians, due largely to the increased need for subsequent endoscopies, specialist follow-up and primary care consultations.
CONCLUSION: Contrary to general beliefs, endoscopic services provided by nurse endoscopists are not more cost effective compared to standard service models and evidence suggests the opposite. Overall significant shortcomings and biases limit the validity and generalizability of studies that have explored safety and quality of services delivered by non-medical endoscopists.
Core tip: A systematic review was performed to examine the available evidence on safety, competency and cost-effectiveness of nursing staff providing gastrointestinal endoscopy services. Most studies conclude that after appropriate training nurse endoscopists safely perform procedures. Contrary to general beliefs, endoscopic services provided by nurse endoscopists are not more cost effective compared to standard service models due largely to the increased need for subsequent endoscopies, specialist follow-up and primary care consultations. The empirical evidence that supports non-physician endoscopists is limited to strictly supervised roles in larger metropolitan settings and mainly flexible sigmoidoscopy and upper endoscopy for asymptomatic or low complexity patients.