An investigation by ProPublica (nonprofit news organization) looked at Medicare data to see the complication rates of nearly 17,000 surgeons nationwide and found that of the 2.3 million surgeries it reviewed, about 63,000 patients suffered serious injury, and 3,405 died. “Even in the best of circumstances, bad things can happen,” said Lawrence Schlachter (Former Surgeon and Current Malpractice Attorney). Hospitals typically view the occasional bad outcome as inevitable, and that is why anytime a patient goes under the knife, there is a potential for life-threatening complications. Hence, since patients have the right to select their own surgeons, those with Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis should act as if their choice in selecting the right surgeon is life or death — because it often is. For some types of surgeries, patients of the worst doctors were three (3) times more likely to die than those operated on by the best-performing surgeons, according to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Analysis. Use the following tips to select the best surgeon and help improve your chances of a successful surgical procedure:
Research Surgeon(s): There is a wealth of information on surgeons online and just a click away. First, go to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) website (fsmb.org) and click on Credentialing, then Physician Data Services to determine if your potential surgeon has been sanctioned by a professional licensing board for a fee of $9.00.
Check Your Potential Surgeon's Ratings: ProPublica (click here) and Consumers’ Checkbook (click here) both have websites where they rate surgeons and provide information on the number of procedures and complication rates, based on recent Medicare data. "To be fair to the surgeons, both adjust their results to allow for patients’ health status, age and other factors, as some surgeons take on sicker or more frail patients," suggested AARP.
Interview Your Possible Surgeon: Once you have narrowed your choices of potential surgeons to only two or three choices, be sure to interview your options. Questions to ask your potential surgeon are...
- Can this be done with minimally invasive surgery?
- How often have you performed this surgery and have you had a lot of difficult cases?
- What complications have you encountered?
- What are my risks?
Doctors need to make patients fully aware of potential harms so they can make an informed decision, especially if it’s elective surgery. If they minimize the dangers, patients may consider going elsewhere.
How To Finalize Your Decision: When you think that you have zeroed in on a surgeon and you feel comfortable with him or her conducting your surgery, you may consider talking to other patients who have had this procedure done by the same surgeon. If you are a Dialysis patient, then ask around your clinic - if you feel comfortable doing so. Also, ponder your interview one last time to make sure that you are making the best decision.
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