Finding an excellent neurosurgeon on the internet is possible. However, you must be very careful and understand exactly what information you are finding.
What do you get from searching internet rating sites?
Internet rating sites such as Healthgrades, Vitals and WebMD are formed by private companies to essentially allow patients to blog about physicians in a seemingly organized but ineffectual manner. They are free to patients and funded by internet advertising. It’s very easy to search for physicians on internet rating sites. You can do it from home and it’s quick and efficient. Multiple physicians can be researched with a few mouse clicks. But there’s a false sense of truth to the internet. With commercials for sites like Angie’s List, there is a misleading impression that your friends and neighbors are passing along accurate recommendations like a good recipe. However, the problem with physician rating sites is multifold. 1) You have absolutely no idea who is providing these reviews, good or bad. These are not necessarily your neighbors, friends or any patient with a condition like yours. It may have truly been a former patient or not. It’s possible the person giving the rating mistakenly reviewed the incorrect surgeon. It may be the surgeon’s office staff boosting the ratings. 2) There is no regulation of these sites. They are not formed or monitored by the government or any agency. If inaccurate information is listed there is no one to check or fix it.
If not an internet rating site, then what is the best way to find an excellent surgeon?
The best way to use the internet is to supplement the search results with other information that is readily available. Family and friends can serve as great resources if any of them have experience working with surgeons. You already know and trust these people and can directly talk to them about their experience. You can also observe if they are better following treatment and whether they had a good experience. The next best source is your other treatment providers including your primary care physician, therapist, physiatrists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, etc. These providers work closely with any surgeon you may see. They will know how the surgeon works, how well the surgeon’s patients do and how happy their patients have been with their results. If your friends, family and other providers recommend a surgeon and the internet rating sites confirm a good review, then make an appointment to see if you’re happy with the surgeon. In the meantime, check with your insurance to make sure the surgeon is in your plan. Lastly, you’ll want to verify they are board certified.
Is there reliable information on the internet other than rating sites?
Outside of rating sites, there can be excellent information available for patients. Evaluate where the surgeon trained. Was this a reputable training program? Did they train in the United States? Verify the surgeon is board certified. This means the surgeon passed a series of tests after their residency training to verify they are competent in their field. Consider the surgeon’s hospital affiliations. Are these hospitals you respect and places where you would like to have surgery? Are there any major malpractice claims or disciplinary actions listed? This can be difficult to find as a patient, but surgeons with multiple malpractice suits are listed.
How do I make the best decision in choosing a surgeon?
If the surgeon is recommended, meet the surgeon and his staff. How friendly is the staff when you speak to them on the phone? Surprising to some, you may actually interact more with the office staff than the surgeon itself. Is the front desk person polite and empathetic? Do they return your calls? Are you able to get an appointment quickly? If you are trying to make an appointment and you cannot get in for a month, then how quickly will you get an appointment after surgery or if you have questions or a problem? Are you meeting with the surgeon or the surgeon’s nurse practitioner or physician assistant? If you are not meeting with the surgeon every visit, do you know if it’s the surgeon is offering the correct surgery or even performing the surgery? If you have questions after surgery, will you be able to speak with your surgeon or do you only see their assistant? And when you finally meet the surgeon, are they nice and empathetic. Do you feel a connection? More than ½ of Americans focus on personality and relationship when choosing a physician. No matter what their credentials and training, it’s important you are comfortable with your surgeon and their staff.
Ratings you can trust!
Internet rating sites might not always be the most reliable, but a great place to look for more reliable reviews is on a physician’s actual website. Here at Rocky Mountain Brain & Spine Institute, we are proud of what we do, and it shows in the reviews that our patients leave. Look at what some patients are saying:
“Very professional organization, EXCELLENT surgeon Dr. Adam Smith, the entire staff is very caring people that work very hard to comfort the client” – Carl S. on June 22, 2017
“Dr. Smith is amazing! Very upfront and honest. He thoroughly goes over everything, answers every question you have and by no means does he make you feel like you’re being rushed. I absolutely would highly recommend him. His office staff is fantastic also and works very hard to meet you every need!” – Laura R. on May 19, 2017