How Do You Pick a Surgeon?

October 20, 2015

Every patient wants quality. That's a no brainer. The hard part is knowing where to find it. Specifically: where does a patient find quality in surgery?

The issue of surgical quality takes on great urgency particularly as patients are transformed by shifting economics into direct healthcare consumers. As such, surgical patients need to understand cost of surgery and the quality of surgery. Leaving aside temporarily the issue of cost transparency, it seems abundantly obvious that patients have essentially no options for getting to surgeon quality. This matter was  recently reviewed in this article posted on William Heisel's Antidote. In brief, it would appear that the only real method today by which to get at surgeon quality is to have other surgeons assess it. This is in fact the idea that drives our network development: have highly skilled surgeons identify other highly skilled surgeons. The kind they would go to themselves if they needed surgery. 

What's interesting is to see that more and more people are gathering around the idea that surgeons actually know a thing or two about surgeons. This is certainly no surprise to anyone who's read Blink, a book that posits that subject experts know things that non-experts simply do not. However, what seems definitely new is the finding of a study published in the Journal of Surgical Research: that non-experts can actually crowd source their knowledge -- through the internet -- and score a surgeon's technique as well as ten expert surgeons. Fascinating!

One senses momentum building around the subject of surgeon qualification. On the one hand, healthcare consumerism is increasing demand for clarity, transparency, and service, as is well articulated by employer sponsored groups, such as Wisconsin's The Alliance. To get a sense of how the market is shaping up, watch the video below. And on the other hand, we see surgeons applying video and internet technology to self-assessment. Where will this go? Will surgeons use technology to select surgeons early in their careers to veer in one technical direction or another? Will they use it for ongoing surgeon education? Time will tell.

Patients deserve quality. Surgeons can help them to find it. Technology can help surgeons help the patients to find the quality they  seek.

About the Author: