If you are contemplating back surgery, choosing a qualified surgeon is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It is absolutely critical to invest time into researching a doctor’s background and credentials. Thankfully, through the use of technology, multiple resources are available to help you investigate this.
You may learn about surgeons in your area through your insurance carrier, word of mouth or advertising, an Internet search, an online directory, etc. Once you have a name, one of the first items to verify is whether or not the surgeon is licensed and board-certified. Being board certified ensures a doctor has met minimum competency requirements through membership to a medical association, or board. Furthermore, to confirm the area of medicine they are board-certified in, is the same area they are practicing in. These can be validated through your state medical board, as well as various online sites. One example is www.certificationmatters.org which was created by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Generally speaking, online ratings are inaccurate and unreliable. Most are submitted without any verification that the reviewer was ever actually a patient. There are, however, organizations which gather credible data, to evaluate and grade a physician’s quality of care. One known group is the National Committee of Quality Assurance (NCQA) at: http://recognition.ncqa.org
Particularly with back surgery, negligence should be a huge consideration and ample reason to efficiently research a surgeon’s background, track record, including any disciplinary actions filed against them. The retrieval of this sort of information may vary, depending on location, but is definitely accessible. A good place to start is also with your state medical board. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) directory can be found at: www.fsmb.org. For a small fee (approx. $10), the FSMB also offers access to a database containing information about disciplinary actions taken against physicians nationwide.
You may also want to check court records in the county where they practice; many courthouses now offer online searches as well. Please keep in mind, the filing of a malpractice suit does not necessarily mean that physician was found accountable of committing a medical error. Be sure to familiarize yourself with any complaints on record.
Lastly, another factor which may help you to decide on a surgeon is to find out which hospital they are affiliated with and have admitting rights to. While it is natural to assume a back surgeon would have this privilege, it is not always the case. Do the research…it is better safe than sorry!