Little is more stressful than finding out that you or a loved one require surgery.
Likely the doctor who diagnosed your need for a surgeon will refer you to that specialist. You trust you will be referred to a good surgeon. Commonly, as patients, we trust that our doctor will refer us to someone they trust and whom they themselves would use if the need arises.
Don’t be so quick to give your trust away.
The fact is that doctors are often required to refer you to specific specialists and surgeons. Doctors are typically affiliated with a particular medical group or hospital system and are often encouraged to refer to physicians within that system. The referral may also be limited by your insurance company and the selection of doctors within that system.
All Referrals Are Not The Same
You might unknowingly get referred to a particular surgeon because a marketing department for a hospital system is promoting a particular surgeon for business reasons and doctors within the group will be encouraged to refer their patients to that surgeon.
This situation happened in the Christopher Duntsch case where hospitals that hired him promoted him heavily within their network of doctors based on his credentials — which were on the surface very impressive. Neurosurgery is very profitable for hospitals. Doctors affiliated with that hospital were encouraged to refer patients to him, and they did.
Unfortunately for those patients who trusted their doctors to refer them to a good surgeon, Dr. Duntsch’s surgeries too often ended in disastrous results for his patients.
When we are at our most vulnerable, when we’ve just found out we need surgery, we want to believe that the people with impressive medical degrees can be trusted implicitly. We often don’t question whether these doctors really are the best choice for the best outcome in our particular situation.
Advice From Dr. Oz
I recently appeared on the Dr. Oz Show with Laura Beil who wrote and hosted the Dr. Death podcast, to discuss the case of Christopher Duntsch. As a surgeon, Dr. Oz was deeply moved by the stories of the victims in this case and made some recommendations for what patients can do to help protect themselves from incompetent doctors. The first thing he mentioned is to check your state’s medical board website to find “a laundry list of items that should tell you exactly what you need to know about your doctor’s past.
On a more personal level, Dr. Oz recommends getting a referral from someone you know, a friend. “The other thing I tell my buddies,” says Dr. Oz, “is ask a nurse. Nurses are in the operating room. They see…”
You need the right representation for your case. Use these questions as a guide when you interview potential attorneys.
“Everybody in the system has to be vigilant to reduce poor quality care,” said Dr. Oz, “I think there’s a major challenge still in America and we’ve got to get better at that.”
Surgeons Are Not Super-Humans
The truth is, surgeons are people and people have limitations. One surgeon is not like another. They have different skills, talents and capabilities. Even within a particular specialty, not all those surgeons will be experienced in the type of surgery you need. Some surgeries and illnesses are very specialized or even rare.
You have to ask questions to know if the surgeon you are considering really is the best choice for your situation.
At the end of the day, the person who has the greatest power in achieving the best results for your medical needs is ‘you.’ Everything starts with decisions you make about your healthcare. So be an involved participant with your doctors and not just a bystander.
Take control by researching, asking lots of questions and vetting your doctors well. Especially in the case of specialists and surgeons whose actions can greatly impact your life.
Start by downloading our step by step guide to choosing the best surgeon for your needs. Your health is everything. Don’t be a bystander when it comes to critical decisions.