How to Select the Right Surgeon
It may seem like there is a thin line between making an emotional decision and tapping into what feels right – but they are very different.
But what’s right for you? Consider car buying – if you travel or spend much time in your car you may need good gas mileage or instead you may need to choose more on comfort.
I do not want to equate picking a surgeon with buying a car. I just what to make the point of being clear on your goal and tap into what feels right. Surgeons come in all kinds of different personalities, shapes, and sizes.
So how do you choose the surgeon that is right for you?
I want you to have the mindset to make the right choice and then I will give you a checklist to begin your search. I am proud to say that for the most part bariatric surgery has attracted the best of the best. So there are many good choices. Most of us that have been doing this for years have a passion for what we do. And it is easy to see why. We get to see the amazing change that occurs as patients reach their goal of fitting into those skinny jeans.
If by chance your surgeon does not seem to have a passion for bariatrics, then look elsewhere. The medical field often likes to depersonalize the physician and surgeon. People do not like this. They like to personalize their choice and want to choose their surgeon. We occasionally have a program at our support group meetings called Profiles of Success. Patients come and talk about their journey to success. Many would say something like, “This is the best money I ever spent, so if you have to beg, borrow, or steal, get it done!” Now we want no one to steal, but you get the point.
On my website www.cliftonthomasmd.com there is an affordability calculator. It points out that you save money by having weight loss surgery, often enough to actually pay cash for it and have that money returned in savings within one to two years.
So enough about the mindset, here is a checklist to begin your search:
- Is the surgeon a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery? I am very proud of this organization and have had the pleasure to see it grow. It has done an outstanding job of providing the tools we need for excellence and has been responsible for encouraging the development of studies that prove beyond a reasonable doubt we are doing the right thing. It also lets you know that your surgeon is board certified and has the proper credentials.
- Is your surgeon a Center of Excellence designee by the Surgical Review Corporation? Around the year 2000, suddenly lots of surgeons decided to become bariatric surgeons, some with adequate training and some not. Some were prepared and some were not. And there were some very bad outcomes. Some hospitals were prepared for bariatric patients and some were not. Do you remember the “Good Housekeeping seal of approval?” It was something in the past that basically put its seal on things of high quality. The SRC is that. It requires documentation of all surgeries, complications, volume of surgery, and results in terms of follow up and resolution of medical co-morbidities. They require low complications and an adequate volume of surgery as well as documentation of good outcome data on resolution of medical problems. They require the majority of the surgeons’ practice to be bariatrics. Insurance companies have developed their own brand of “Center of Excellence.” I have had an executive from a major insurance company say that the designation has the most to do with marketing and lowest cost. So be careful with the language from the insurance companies.
- Does your surgeon have a comprehensive approach with a team of dietitians, counselors, and knowledgeable nurses to guild you through the process?
- What hospitals does your surgeon use? And are they designated by the Surgical Review Corporation as a Center of Excellence? www.surgicalreview.org
- What types of weight loss surgeries does he offer? Ask the question and watch how he answers. It will tell you a lot. I personally feel that no one operation fits for all patients. If your surgeon has not done many gastric bypasses, it may be that he is not technically capable.
- Does the office staff seem personable?
- In the best of situations the office staff should reflect the attitudes and personality of the surgeon, but often that is not true. So be careful when judging a surgeon by his office staff. Also keep in mind that they too are instrumental in your success and you need to feel comfortable with them. Remember that bariatric surgery has attracted the best of the best. So if you do not get that feel, look elsewhere.
- Do you get a sense that the office billing person will help guide you through the complexity of medical billing and insurance? And will they be responsive to any issues? Most people do not realize how complicated medical billing is. There are many areas where an issue might arise. So it is important that you get a feel that if issues arise, they will be responsive.
- How well does your surgeon answer your questions? Pay close attention here.
- How well does the office staff answer your questions?
- Is the practice website a helpful resource and is there anything that separates it from the pack?
Let the journey begin and good luck!