How do you know if your surgeon is competent? Most of the time, patients don’t have long relationships with their surgeons. Most patients are referred to a surgeon by their primary care doctor or specialist. In fact, they likely will meet the surgeon just once for a consultation prior to the actual surgery. That doesn’t give them a lot of time to evaluate a surgeon’s competence or character.
To protect yourself or your loved one, here are some steps you should take before agreeing to surgery:
- Ask questions. Is this surgery necessary? Are there any non-invasive methods that could be tried before resorting to this step? What complications are common with this surgery? If your surgeon can’t (or won’t) answer you, that’s a problem.
- Do some online research. A Google search can turn up news articles about lawsuits or other problems involving your surgeon. You may also be able to find patient experiences on HealthGrades.com or Vitals.com that illuminate your surgeon’s skill or character.
- Check their credentials and their history. The Federation of State Medical Boards allows consumers to look up their physician’s license, while the American Board of Medical Specialties let you see if your surgeon is board eligible or certified in their speciality.
- Look at Medicare data. ProPublica and Consumers’ Checkbook both maintain databases that rate surgeons based on the number of procedures they do, their success rates compared to other surgeons and the complications they have.
What happens, however, if your precautions aren’t enough and you still end up harmed by a surgical mistake? In that kind of situation, it’s wisest to discuss your case with someone who can help you better understand who has liability for your injuries and what to do next.