Frequently Asked Questions
What is a gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a physician who specializes in the gastrointestinal tract (including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine) and other digestive organs (liver, pancreas, bile ducts, and gall bladder). Gastroenterologists see patients in the hospital and clinic, and also perform endoscopic procedures (e.g., upper endoscopy and colonoscopy). All UNC gastroenterologists are board certified and highly trained. They completed four years of medical school, three years of internal medicine residency, and between two and four years of gastroenterology fellowship. Many UNC gastroenterologists further specialize in particular areas, such as esophageal disorders, motility disorders, liver diseases (“hepatologists”), and advanced endoscopic procedures.
Do gastroenterologists perform surgery?
No. Gastroenterologists perform endoscopic procedures, but do not perform surgery. When necessary, they work closely with GI surgeons.
Who else is part of the UNC gastroenterology team?
UNC faculty gastroenterologists lead teams that may include gastroenterology physician fellows, nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PA), and nurses. Sometimes they also work with psychologists, GI surgeons, and other medical specialists.
How can I get information on a particular UNC gastroenterologist or team member?
A full list of our faculty members (including our Fellows, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses), with clinical focus, academic interests, and contact information is available here.
Do I need a referral to schedule an appointment?
Yes, all new patients require a referral from a physician prior to scheduling an appointment.
How do I make an appointment?
If you are new to the clinic, your referring physician should simply fax a completed procedure request form (available here for referrals not related to liver conditions and herefor liver-related referrals) to 919-966-3414. Upon receipt, a UNC gastroenterologist will review the request and our scheduling office will call you to schedule the appointment. If you have already been seen in the clinic within the past three years, you may schedule a return appointment by calling 919-966-5050.
Do you treat children and adults?
We take care of adult patients. UNC pediatric gastroenterologists care for children. Information about their clinic is available here.
What insurance plans are accepted?
We accept Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare, BCBS, and most other insurance plans. A full list is available here.
How much will a clinic visit cost?
The specific amount of these costs will vary depending on your insurance plan and the type of visit.
- If you have health insurance your services may be subject to deductible, co-insurance, and/or co-payment requirements set by your insurance plan. A deposit may be required at the time of service.
- If you do not have health insurance we will ask for a $100 deposit at the initial visit and $80 at return visits.
- If you are on the charity care plan you will be expected to bring in the co-payment at the time of service. The specific amount is outlined in the charity care award letter that you should have previously received.
At no time do we want financial hardship to come between you and appropriate care. If you have any questions regarding this prepayment policy, setting up a payment plan or financial assistance, please contact a financial counselor at 919-966-8499. In addition, the customer service department of your insurance company will be able to provide you information regarding your out-of-pocket expenses for your procedure.
What should I bring to my appointment?
For your first visit you should bring a completed health history questionnaire (if one was mailed to you), a list of medications (including dose), your UNC hospital card (if any), and your insurance card. You should also bring cash, a check, or credit card to cover any visit co-payments.
Where are you located?
We see outpatients in several locations, including: the GI Medicine Clinic at UNC Medical Center (directions here), the Transplant Clinic at UNC Medical Center (directions here), UNC at Hillsborough (directions here), and UNC at Meadowmont (directions here). Please be sure to check the specific location of your appointment.
What should I expect?
At the front desk you will meet with a staff member who will confirm your personal contact and insurance information, check you in for your appointment, give you some papers to hold, and ask you to have a seat. A nurse will then call your name and bring you (generally alone, without your family members) to the “triage” area where she will review your medications and allergies, check your heart rate and blood pressure, and ask you a few questions. Afterwards, any family members can accompany you as the nurse shows you to the clinic exam room.
The physician will meet you and ask detailed questions about your current problems, past medical history, family history, and other pertinent information. The physician will then confirm your list of medications and allergies, and then perform a complete exam. A female nurse chaperone is available for your comfort. Afterwards, the physician will discuss the plan of care, give you written instructions (including his/her contact information), possibly order tests (such as blood tests, x-rays, GI procedures, and motility tests), and either refer you back to your referring physician or set up a follow-up appointment. You will then be brought to the check-out area where a staff member will answer any questions, collect any required payments, and schedule any tests and appointments.
How long will the visit take?
The amount of time varies depending on the type of problem. New visits typically last between 30 – 60 minutes. Return visits are shorter. We value your time and try to run on time, but emergencies and unexpected events sometimes cause delay.
What if I am scheduled for a medication infusion?
We provide infusions to current patients of the GI clinic in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. We have 6 infusion chairs within the infusion suite. Patients should bring their current insurance cards, a snack, a drink and, if advised by their provider, a driver. (not all infusions require sedation or a driver). Wi-Fi is available. If you bring a music playing device, please bring a headset as the infusion area is small. Friends and family may accompany the patients to the clinic, but may not be able to stay with the patients during the actual infusion (this depends on the clinic’s level of activity). Prior to scheduling an infusion we will help coordinate insurance benefits. If your insurance changes please be sure to contact the clinic or your UNC physician/nurse so that insurance preauthorization can be obtained if needed.
What if I need a GI procedure?
We do not provide GI endoscopic procedures in the actual clinic, though there is a procedure unit near (or attached to) each clinic. If you need a GI procedure we will help schedule it for you. Sometimes these can be scheduled on the same day as clinic appointments.
What if I need a referral to another provider?
When indicated, our office will make referrals. UNC is also home to top specialists in other areas of medicine, so if you need additional care, it will be available right here.
Where can I eat?
There are several dining options within UNC Medical Center and several adjacent to our Meadowmont facility.
I am traveling from out of town. Where do you recommend I stay?
For hotels in the area, contact MedStay, a free concierge hotel reservation service for patients and their family members. You may call and speak to a personal service team member at (877) 633-7829 or visit MedStay online.
How can I get a copy of my UNC medical records?
This information must come from the medical records department, as explained .
I have a question about my bill.
Please expect to receive a bill from UNC Faculty Physicians, for the physician portion of the services. In many instances, you may also receive a bill from UNC Hospitals for the use of facilities. Check your statement to see if it is a UNC Faculty Physicians statement or a UNC Hospitals statement. If it is a UNC Faculty Physicians statement, you may call 919-966-2211 for assistance with billing questions. If it is a UNC Hospitals statement, you may call 919-966-1234 for assistance with billing questions. For additional questions or assistance, please call a financial counselor at 919-966-8499.
Who can I contact with more questions?
- Clinic – appointment scheduling: 984-974-5050.
- Medical Records: Requests for medical records should be made through the Medical Records Department.
- Question for my doctor, test results, and prescription refills: Call your specific physician at the phone number located on their profile, available here. You will likely speak with an assistant or be asked to leave a message. We will do our best to return your call promptly.
- Urgent medical issues: For medical emergencies call 911. For urgent medical issues, please call 984-974-1000 and ask to page the GI ambulatory fellow (pager # 123-7044). After 5PM call 984-974-1000 and ask for the GI fellow on call. We are sorry we cannot answer medical questions from patients who have not yet been seen in our practice.
What if I need to reschedule my appointment?
Please call us at 919-966-5563 as soon as possible (and at least 3 days before the scheduled appointment).
How do I prepare for my procedure?
We perform more than 10 different types of GI (endoscopic) procedures. Instructions for your specific procedure will be sent to you approximately 4 weeks prior to the scheduled appointment date. These are also available here.
I am traveling from out-of-town. Where do you recommend I stay?
For hotels in the area, contact MedStay, a free concierge hotel reservation service for patients and their family members. You may call and speak to a personal service team member at (877) 633-7829 or visit MedStay online at www.medstaychapelhill.com.
What should I bring with me?
Unless you plan to have a procedure without sedation (which is rare), you must be accompanied by an adult who can stay on the premises during the procedure and drive you home after it is completed. You should also bring your insurance card, hospital card (if you have one), a completed pre-procedure questionnaire (sent 4 weeks prior to appointment; also available here), and either a credit card, debit card, or two checks for any possible out-of-pocket payments.
Where do I go?
Be sure to check the specific location of your appointment. For a map with directions to the GI Procedures Unit at UNC Medical Center click here, for UNC Hospitals Endoscopy Center at Meadowmont click here, and for UNC at Hillsborough click here.
When should I arrive?
We ask that you arrive at the GI Procedure check-in desk at least 45 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. This is to ensure that we have adequate time to get you ready for your procedure. If your procedure is at UNC Medical Center, please be sure to leave an additional 30 minutes for parking and registration.
What happens after I arrive and check-in?
After you check-in you will be brought to the pre-procedure area where a nurse will ask you several questions, check your blood pressure, and place an IV. You will also meet with a gastroenterologist who will discuss your history and procedure with you, answer any questions, examine you, and obtain your consent. An anesthesiology professional may also ask you questions. Next, you will be brought to the procedure room and meet a GI procedure nurse, a GI technician, an anesthesia provider (if any), and one or two GI physicians. Just before the procedure starts you will be given medicine to make you comfortable, and then the procedure will be performed. Most procedures last between 15 – 60 minutes. During this time, your accompanying adult will be asked to wait in the waiting area or elsewhere on premises (she or he must be reachable by cell phone). A variety of dining options are available at UNC Medical Center and at UNC Hospitals Endoscopy Center at Meadowmont.
What happens after the procedure is completed?
After the procedure is completed you will be brought to the recovery area, where you will fully awaken from the procedure, meet the adult who accompanies you, and remain for approximately 20-45 minutes. Your GI physician will discuss the results with you and give you a copy of the procedure report. Another copy will be sent to the physician who referred you for the procedure. After you have fully recovered, a nurse will answer any additional questions, review a set of printed post-procedure instructions (covering diet, activity, and medication use), and send you home. If you received sedative medications (almost all patients do) you will not be able to drive. Instead, your accompanying adult will drive you home. Hospital staff members are available to help you to your car, if necessary.
How long will the whole process take?
Please plan to spend at least 3 hours in our unit. We will do everything possible to avoid a delay in your procedure, but emergencies may interrupt the schedule.
How much will this cost me?
Out-of-pocket costs vary depending on your insurance and the type of procedure. A letter regarding possible procedure costs will be mailed to you within 4 weeks of your scheduled procedure. Click here for the cost letter for procedures at UNC Memorial Hospital, here for UNC Endoscopy Center at Meadowmont, and here for UNC GI at Hillsborough. For additional questions or assistance, please call our financial counselor, Charlene Brigman at 984-974-0116. At no time do we want financial hardship to come between you and appropriate care.
What if I normally take medications?
- Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDS): stop these 7 days before the GI procedure unless they have been prescribed by your physician.
- Plavix (Clopidgrel), Coumadin (Warfarin), and other blood thinners: our pre-procedure nurse will discuss this with your physician and let you know whether to continue or temporarily hold these medications.
- Diuretics: do not take any diuretics (e.g., Lasix, HCTZ) on the day of the procedure.
- Diabetes medicine: if you are diabetic and take long acting insulin (Lantus) then take only one half the night before the test. Then, do not take your diabetes medicine on the morning of the test. You will resume your medicines after the test.
Please check with your primary doctor or call us (984-974-5050) if you have any further questions.
Who will perform my procedure?
Your procedure will be performed by an experienced, board-certified UNC faculty gastroenterologist. Sometimes a gastroenterology fellow physician will assist. Specially trained endoscopy nurses and technicians will also be present. Often an anesthesiology professional is also part of the team. Our goal is to keep you comfortable and perform safe, high-quality procedures.
Will it hurt?
We will do everything we can to keep you comfortable. Most people remember little, if anything, about the procedure. In fact, often they are surprised when they wake up and are told the test is already over!
Can I eat after my procedure?
Most patients can resume a normal diet after the procedure. Your physician or nurse will give you specific dietary instructions after the procedure is completed.
When can I return to work?
If you receive sedative medications (most people) you may return to work the following day. We can provide you with a doctor’s note if your employer requires one.
Biopsies were taken. When can I expect to receive these results?
In general you will receive the results of any biopsies (tissue samples) by mail, approximately 2-4 weeks after the procedure. If you do not receive these results by then, or need these sooner, please call us at 984-974-5050.
Where can I learn more about GI procedures?
Additional information is available from the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy by clicking here.
What if I have additional questions?
Call us at 984-974-5050. After hours, if you have an urgent question about a procedure that has already been scheduled, please call 984-974-1000 and ask to page the GI fellow on call.