Researchers suggests that over the years, patients have become better informed about medical issues. As a result, they increasingly use that information to help them make important healthcare decisions. One such decision is the choice of a surgeon and hospital when faced with the prospect of major surgery. Here’s some information that will help you make these important decisions.
Whether your surgeon comes recommended by your primary care physician or you choose to select one on your own, don't take your surgeon's qualifications for granted. Here are some credentials to look for:
Research shows that some hospitals simply do a better job than others. So how can you find the best hospital for the care you need? Look for the following:
Getting a second opinion is a good way to make sure that having surgery is the best choice for you. Many people are uneasy about seeking another opinion. However, getting a second opinion is a common medical practice encouraged by most doctors. Furthermore, Medicare and many private health insurance companies will help pay for a second opinion because it is also in their best interest to avoid unnecessary surgery. Most Medicaid programs also pay for a second opinion.
Before having surgery, you'll be asked to provide official written consent. It's important to discuss all of your concerns about your condition and the surgery with your surgeon before you sign this form. In most cases, your surgeon will volunteer a great deal of information, but don't hesitate to ask any questions you still have. Your doctor should be willing to take whatever time is necessary to make sure that you are fully informed.
Before your surgery, ask about your surgeon's fees. Many surgeons volunteer this information; if yours doesn't, don't hesitate to ask. You can find out about hospital rates from the hospital business office. In addition to surgeons' fees and the costs of hospitalization, you will also be billed for the professional services of others involved in your care, such as the anesthesiologist and medical consultants.
You will probably want to check your health insurance plan to see what portion of these costs it covers. If your insurance plan will not pay all of the anticipated costs and you cannot afford the difference, discuss this situation frankly with your surgeon.
The most important criteria for choosing your surgeon is your ability to trust the doctor. When you meet with your surgeon, speak with her and listen carefully to her plans and explanations. You need to feel comfortable with what your surgeon says, how she says it, and how relaxed and confident you feel with the level of care.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
American College of Surgeons
Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations
BC Surgical Society
Birkmeyer J, Stukel T, Siewers AE, et al. Surgeon volume and operative mortality in the United States. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:2117-2127.
Chen J, Radford MJ, Wang Y, et al. Do "America's Best Hospitals" perform better for acute myocardial infarction? N Engl J Med. 1999;340:286-292.
Clancy CM. Do your homework before you choose a hospital. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cc/cc061708.htm. Published June 17, 2008. Accessed July 11, 2012.
Considering surgery? National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/considering-surgery. Updated April 12, 2012. Accessed July 11, 2012.
Krumholz HM, Rathore SS, Chen J, et al. Evaluation of a consumer-oriented internet healthcare report card: the risk of quality ratings based on mortality data. JAMA. 2002 Mar 13; 287:1277-1287.
Nugent WC. In health care, geography is destiny [editorial]. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2000;120(5).
Who should do your operation? American College of Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.facs.org/public_info/operation/who.html. Accessed July 11, 2012.
Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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