The death of Joan Rivers hit me hard. I was such a fan. I felt her death was a tragedy. Now, like Joan, I’m contemplating elective surgery at a surgery center. How do I know I’m choosing a good doctor? And although I’ve heard surgery centers have advantages over going into a hospital, I’m worried. How do I know I’ll be safe? — “Can We Talk?” Fan
SAM and CHARLEE:
Dear “Can We Talk?”
It is understandable that you are concerned about the choices of your medical practitioner and facility. So how do you choose a surgeon?
- Use the Internet to get the basics: Is the doctor Board certified in the specialty for which you will be treated? How long has he practiced? Where did he get his degree/training?
- Be wary about Internet ratings. Disgruntled patients are more likely to have posted reviews (they have an ax to grind) and good ratings can be engineered and “enhanced” by hiring a PR firm.
- Go in for a consultation. Then keep in mind the following: Do you feel comfortable in the office? How does the staff treat you? Is it a busy practice (if you have to wait, chances are your doctor is in demand)? Fourth, how do you get along with the doctor? Does he listen to you? Are you encouraged to ask questions? Is he accessible after hours? What does he say about how he handles complications (if he says he doesn’t have them, he’s either not operating enough or not being truthful)?
- During this visit, ask the office staff if there are any patients who would be willing to talk to you about their experience. Also, if you are considering a cosmetic procedure, ask to look at Before and After pictures and note the quality of the work you see. (In that regard, beware of computerized pictures of how you will look after surgery; they are often misleading. Flesh and blood doesn’t respond like a computer). Bottom line: be aware of your gut feelings. Go with your instincts and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.
As for as the facility: If you’ve chosen the surgeon, you may have no choice about where he operates, because it will be where he has hospital privileges, unless he is affiliated with a surgery center. In spite of the Joan Rivers tragedy, Ambulatory Surgery Centers are a great value and very safe. Most are physician owned, so the facility has a staff and equipment hand-picked by your doctor. Plus, research shows, in general, surgery centers have lower infection rates than a hospital. But choose a center accredited by AAAHC, JCAHO, and/or Medicare as these are the platinum standards for health care delivery in a surgery center and/or hospital. (Yes it is true, the center where Joan Rivers went was accredited, but it was recently accredited and had only been in operation for a year.) So be conservative, be wise, and only use an established facility (including a hospital) with a solid reputation.
Send your questions to: 2GGR@Collini.com