Selecting the right surgeon is no small feat. No matter how big or small the surgery is, a qualified and experienced surgeon can be the difference between a successful procedure and one fraught with surgical complications. Therefore, a patient’s top priority should always be to look for the right surgeon.
Dr. Thomas Frimpong is a neurosurgeon with a specialty in spinal surgery. He has been practicing for more than 10 years as a neurosurgeon and spinal surgery specialist. He is currently affiliated with the Bassett Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Frimpong performs minimally invasive surgery, neuroradiology imaging like CT, MRI, PET, and MEG. With years of experience in neurosurgery, he discusses the best ways to look for and select a surgeon.
Researching the Surgeon
When surgery is inevitable, the first order of business is to search for a surgeon. When selecting a surgeon, explains Dr. Thomas Frimpong, you go through a time-intensive process of browsing, shortlisting, and examining the qualifications and ratings of each of the candidates. This is no different from looking for a home repair technician or a good lawyer, because you want to make sure that you get the best care. One of the very first steps to research a potential surgeon is to make sure that they have state credentials. This is a simple process that only requires going online and visiting the website of the Federation of State Medical Boards. It has a lot of information about every physician, including whether the surgeon is licensed to practice in a particular state.
Next, it is time to confirm the surgeon’s certification. The American Board of Medical Specialties trains surgeons and awards those that pass its exams with a certification in their specific specialties. There is a difference between being board certified and board eligible. A board-eligible physician is one who has finished their residency but has yet to pass the exam.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Thomas Frimpong advises patients to shortlist board-certified surgeons, then investigate their background for possible reprimands. Medical malpractices and board actions can be found on the websites of state medical boards. This information is often given out for free or for a small fee, but it is crucial in weeding out the less-than-qualified physicians.
When comparing a few surgeons with impeccable backgrounds and credentials, it might be difficult to settle on one. That is where physician ratings come in. Some organizations such as Consumers’ Checkbook and ProPublica rate doctors based on the number of surgeries they have performed and their complication rates. To come up with a fair and accurate evaluation of each surgeon, these ratings consider the complexity of the procedure, the health condition of the patients, and their age.
Interviewing the Surgeon
This exhaustive research and the hours spent on the internet usually yield a list of potential candidates that meet the patient’s standards. Now is the time for the patient to interview each surgeon to discuss the case and see for themselves how suitable the surgeon is. You can think of yourself as an employer looking to hire the services of a qualified person. Not only are you interviewing the surgeon to assess their suitability, but you are also trying to better understand your condition and the best type of procedure you need, notes Dr. Thomas Frimpong of Wichita, Kansas. So, you make an appointment with each surgeon on your list and you go armed with a few questions.
Some of the questions have to do with whether minimally invasive surgery is possible. If open surgery is the only option, then the next question would inquire about the length of the hospital stay and what the complication rates would be like. After discussing the case, it is time to turn to the surgeon and their past experience asking about the surgeon’s specialty and how often they have performed this specific surgery. The more procedures the surgeon performs per year, the less risk there is of serious complications. This is true for both common as well as complex or new procedures.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Thomas Frimpong also advises patients interviewing a potential surgeon to ask the surgeon about the risks involved in this procedure. It is important to walk into the surgery knowing exactly what potential harm this surgery could have. A good surgeon never minimizes the risks.
What to Watch Out for
Technical questions aside, another vital part of the interview has to do with assessing the surgeon’s demeanor and the way they behave. The main criteria to judge the surgeon have to do with how respectful they are toward patients and coworkers and whether they conduct themselves with professionalism.
In Dr. Thomas Frimpong’s opinion, bedside manners matter not just because they instill confidence in the patient and put them at ease, but also there is a good correlation between good bedside manners and low complication rates.
Other things to watch out for are surgeons with a conflict of interest. Some physicians get paid to promote certain surgical devices or prescribe specific medications. This conflict of interest might put the interests of pharmaceutical companies over the best interests of the patients. These surgeons are to be avoided.
Dr. Thomas Frimpong on Making the Final Decision
To help the patient narrow down their choice to just one candidate, it might help to talk to other patients who had undergone the same procedure. Colleagues and staff working in the same hospital could also shed light on the surgeon’s expertise and behavior both inside and outside the operating room.
After the research and many interviews, Dr. Thomas Frimpong of Wichita, Kansas, advises, do not forget to get a second opinion. In some cases, physical therapy could help with your back pain and you might not even need the surgery at all. And if surgery is the best option, then ask around about the best hospitals or institutions that specialize in this surgery.
The way the surgeon answers the patient’s questions during the interview and asks relevant questions of their own will help the patient make their final decision.