Researching Your Board Certified Surgeon
With your list of breast reduction surgeon candidates to perform your surgery in hand, you must now research their credentials and malpractice history. Not all information is made available to the public, so relying on word of mouth of real patients to find a plastic surgeon can be invaluable. This may seem like a lot of information to absorb, but it is very important your life and physical well being may depend upon it.
Board Certification and State Licensure
State licensure is very important. Licensure sets a minimum standard necessary to practice medicine, and your breast reduction surgeon must hold a valid license to practice medicine for the state in which he or she performs your procedure. These licenses may be a Medical Doctor (MD), which is an allopathic physician, or a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), which is an osteopathic physician. Most plastic surgeons tend to be medical doctors, but you may find one that is an osteopathic doctor.
Most states have online verification, while others may require a written request or even a request by telephone.
Verifying Your Surgeon's Board Certification
Although not every good surgeon will be listed on the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the ABMS website provides you with the means to determine if your surgeon is certified by any of their boards (commonly The American Board of Plastic Surgery and/or The American Board of Surgery). Click the link button below to access the American Board of Medical Specialties' online certification verification database. It will require registration, which is free.
Alternatively, you can verify a surgeon's board certification over the phone by calling 1-866-ASK-ABMS (1-866-275-2267). Both of these options are free.
Professional Liability Insurance for Your Breast Reduction Surgeon
Not all surgeons carry liability insurance and not all states require it. You can contact your state's Department of Insurance (DOI), or the DOI in states where your surgeon has been licensed to practice in the past. The amount of available information will vary from state to state. You may also wish to ask whether or not your doctor carries professional liability insurance.
If they have the resources to do so, some surgeons may choose to utilize a surety bond instead of carrying insurance. Some states have very high insurance premiums and it is often easier and less expensive in the long run to carry a bond instead. This basically means the surgeon either has the funds/liquid assets, or maintains an irrevocable letter of credit equal to the maximum award amount for that state set aside instead of paying high premiums for liability insurance. Doctors who choose not to carry traditional liability insurance are usually required to post such information in plain view in their office, or on documents made readily available to their patients.
Factors that may determine whether or not your surgeon chooses to have insurance include the region of the country where he's located, state requirements, risk of specialty, assets, or requirements of group practices or premises.
Researching A Surgeon's Malpractice History
Unfortunately, today there are surgeons who perform less than stellar surgeries and frivolous lawsuits that can cloud our judgment when making educated decisions. This is also a very difficult area to research, as it takes many, many dedicated hours of effort, and you may not be able to get as much information as you would like. There are wonderful surgeons who have been sued and there are surgeons with inadequate skills who haven't been sued yet. If you do find that your surgeon has been involved in a recent lawsuit, inquire as to why. Just know that anyone can file a lawsuit at anytime, whether they have reason or not.
Please also know that lawsuits may be filed because the results were not what the patient expected or something unforeseen arose (undiagnosed medical conditions, anesthesia complications, or events beyond the surgeon's control). Most cases must prove negligence to be viable, but there have been successful cases where no negligence was proven.
Negligence would include an attending surgeon who administered care that was considered substandard in that particular medical community or specialty in this case, plastic surgery. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine which surgeons are victims of frivolous lawsuits and which cases involve patients who were truly victims. Most surgeons will not volunteer that they have been involved in a lawsuit, but you do have the right to ask, with emphasis on recent suits.
You can go to the courthouse for the county in which your surgeon practices and perform a search for litigations, arbitrations and trials in the civil index. You can ask the county clerk for specific instructions and etiquette on how to do this. Some courts ask that you pay a fee for copies of the documents. Malpractice information may also be found at the Superior Court Office.
You may also seek the services of private and semi-private firms such as www.WestLaw.com or www.E-law.com KnowX.com (free & pay per search) may have information. Just be careful, you may discover that what you thought was going to be malpractice information is simply a divorce. You can also try the Federation of Medical Boards Disciplinary History Service, which charges a fee.
Verifying A Surgery Center's Accreditation
If your surgery is to be performed at an on-site ambulatory surgery center, make sure they are accredited! Accreditation associations ensure that surgery centers are well equipped, have equipment to properly sterilize instruments, an emergency protocol and proper emergency equipment such as a crash cart, and are easily accessible to emergency vehicles. Below are the four accreditation associations in the United States and one in Canada:
Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC)
American Association for Accreditation for Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF)
American Osteopathic Association (AOA)
Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
Canadian Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities
Further Researching Your Breast Reduction Surgeon
Thanks to the Internet you can find out just about everything on everybody, if you know what you're doing. Some of these sites aren't free, so watch out! You can also type your surgeon's name into a search engine like Google and it may pull up all kinds of information. Google indexes the contents on the actual page, resulting in all sorts of interesting tid-bits about a subject even posts on message boards. You can click 'cached' and your search words will be highlighted. In other words, you get what you ask for and not a lot of rubbish.