Longtime GI doctor promotes screenings as easy, pain-free lifesavers

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When you’ve done something 100,000 times, give or take, you’re pretty good at it. And when the something in question can save someone’s life, then chances are you’re going to promote it at every opportunity.

That’s certainly the case for Dr. Roger Orth, a physician with Gastroenterology Associates of Pensacola. He’s been in practice for 32 years, and got into the screening side of practicing medicine early on because he’s a problem solver.

“I received a lot of training to have this skill set, and I like to see how we can help people as the field continues to evolve,” Dr. Orth says. “We’ve got 12 doctors at The Endoscopy Center, where we have partnered with Sacred Heart, and so we are able to help a lot of people every day. We do screenings, of course, but we also help people who have had complications from surgery as well.”

Dr. Orth anticipates seeing even more patients as the MissionPoint Health Partners team begins working with its Members in the area to advocate for preventive screenings such as colonoscopies.

“We have a large population base, and we’re poised and ready to see the people they may bring us,” he says of MissionPoint. “We have a lot of people who come in for a test or screening after they hear me give a talk at a health fair, for example. So I know that if more people are out there talking about it, that will translate into more people coming to us and taking better care of their GI health.”

Wellness efforts require proactive approach

As he addresses community gatherings, Dr. Orth says he is struck by the lack of information around family history and other triggers that can lead to colon cancer and other problems. That’s why he is a tireless advocate for screenings of all kinds, as well as knowing your genetic background as much as possible.

“You make your own luck in life, and colonoscopies can save your life,” he says. “And it saves you money, because it’s far cheaper than surgery and chemotherapy afterward, not to mention the quality of life you’ll maintain if you catch a problem early.”

He notes that colon cancer rates have dropped dramatically in the last 15 years thanks to screenings, which benefits patients and the entire healthcare system.

“We get people coming in to see us who say that their doctor told them he or she wouldn’t be their doctor any more if they didn’t get one,” Dr. Orth said, laughing. “That’s how strongly we feel about it! And when we have a case where I have remove a polyp that has become cancerous and could have been caught if I’d seen the patient earlier, it’s very frustrating. So I hope we keep getting the word out.”

The standard age for a first screening is age 50, but Dr. Orth points out that it should be 45 for African-Americans based on a higher risk in their demographic, and even earlier if there are other risk factors such as family history. Putting those numbers in front of patients is something he knows primary care providers do, and he believes Health Partners will fill a much-needed gap to help Members follow up on their doctors’ recommendations.

“If we can get more people in early rather than on the late side, we’re going to save some lives,” he says. “We see 100 people a day, and we’ll take more. The more people who are pursuing preventive care, the better we’re going to like it. It makes for a very busy schedule, but clinical medicine can be very fun.”

To see how Health Partners can work with your care provider, contact MissionPoint Health Partners at 1-855-288-6747 or email members@missionpointhealth.org.

MissionPoint Health Partners, soon to be called Ascension Care Management (ACM), is a subsidiary of Ascension.