Warning Signs When Picking a Surgeon

Call 281-633-8600 for an appointment.  In this article, Dr. J. Michael Bennett talks about factors you might want to consider when picking a surgeon, especially an orthopedic surgeon.  This article is from the Dr. Jay Show on 1560TheGame in Houston, TX.  Doctor Bennett specializes in treating issues of the shoulders, elbows, knees, and certain hands and wrist injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Doctor J. Michael Bennett is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon with a Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) as a Sports Medicine Physician.  We accept Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare and most other medical health insurance plans, and we serve patients from the Metro Houston area through offices in Sugar Land and in Houston, near the Houston Galleria.  Call 281-633-8600 for an appointment.

This is a transcript of the sixth section of a broadcast of the Dr. Jay Show on 1560TheGame in Houston, TX.  Dr. J. Michael Bennett is joined on the Show by Bob Lewis of 1560TheGame.  The topic of the Show is how to pick a good doctor and if you’d like to review earlier sections, here are links to the other part of the Show

Here’s the Show transcript:

DOCTOR J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  Here are some red flags you should be on the look-out for when you’re picking a surgeon:  

  1. You do not see the surgeon until the day of surgery.  You will see a physician extender, or a physician assistant, or a non-operative pain or non-operative sports doctor, you’ll see them, you’ll get treated, all the way up to the day of surgery or all the way up to a week before surgery and then they’ll shift you over to the specialist and then they’ll say, “Okay, you’re going to go ahead and operate.”  For me, I’m a little old-fashioned, I like to see you from Day 1 all the way out, all the way through, back from recovery, it’s a process; you grow with that patient, you get better with that patient.  And that’s a red flag for me.  
  2. Options are never discussed.  You’ve got options.  You’ve got surgical options, you’ve got ancillary options, you should be able to pick and choose where you want to go for an MRI, where you want to go for therapy, where you want to go for your physician.  A majority of orthopedic surgeries are elective, though there is a minority where it’s pretty emergent, where we have these fractures or a bone sticking out.  But a lot of this stuff is elective when it comes to meniscus tears or ACLs or even a little tendon tear or tendon sprain; you have options.  Every time I see a patient I tell them, “this is your option for non-operative management.  If you do this non-operatively and don’t do surgery, this is your option, this is what’s going to happen to you if you don’t – just educating you and letting you know what will happen – and this is what’s going to happen if you do have surgery.”  So you’ve got to have two options and let that patient make an educated decision.

LEWIS:  So you’re giving two options.  

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  I give them an option to have surgery and to not have surgery usually for most elective stuff.  If I have a patient with an ACL tear, I’ll tell them, “your risk of arthritis is higher, your knee’s going to buckle on you if you’re active, you’re going to have problems probably later when you get older, but there are some people out there that want non-operative management and we can do that as well.  But this is what you can expect if you do non-operative management.”  So you’ve got to know your options and it’s a big red flag if somebody says to me, “Oh, you’ve got to have surgery, no questions asked.  That’s it.”  And they don’t go over these options with you.

It’s a bad sign if you leave the office more confused than when you went into the office.  As a surgeon, I think it’s my job to educate you and teach you about your problem, your results, what you have going on, how you’re going to get better, and what the progress is afterwards and what to expect.  And it should be clearer to you afterwards whether it’s through models and pictures that show what’s going on in your knee rather than, “Hey, this is what you got, see you later, meet you in surgery next week.”  If you leave that office confused and with more questions than you had before, then the doc didn’t do a good job of taking care of you as a physician.  You need to be well informed and your expectations have to be pretty much on the spot.  You’ve got to know what to expect.

3.  A surgeon will take offense at second opinions

LEWIS:  That is a big one.  I’ve had personal experience with that.  I understand that we all think we’re good at what we do, but really a second opinion on an operative procedure would to me seem to always be the smart thing to do.  

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  Yeah, and I encourage it.  If I have a patient with any questions at all, I say, “If you’d like a second opinion, I can give you this guy’s name or you can go and see whoever you want.  And then, if you decide to do it, we’re here for you.”  Believe it or not, when I give them that option for that second opinion, they always come back; I don’t lose anybody that way.  Whereas if you’ve got a doc that says, “Oh, you want a second opinion? Then fine, forget you, I don’t want to deal with this anymore,” then that’s somebody that obviously is either not too confident about the decision they’re making or the recommendation they’re making or they’re a little worried about the fact that you’re going to go get a second opinion and so maybe this guy’s going to tell you something different and you’re going to go with this guy instead.  That’s a big red flag for me, this second opinion deal.  I always give that option because I don’t want a patient to be unhappy with a result or ever question the fact that, “Okay, well, geez, I should have talked to so and so before I did this because now I’m miserable and I don’t know why.”  That’s going to lead to more problems later on.  

4. Difficulty in obtaining records and lots of red tape to cut through.  

LEWIS: Yeah, what’s up with that?

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  That goes back to the idea – whether it’s a hospital or whether it’s a group or whatever it is – that their whole operation is to keep you in that group.  

LEWIS:  We’ve had to go pick up records because they’ve said they mailed them and they didn’t mail them. 

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  And they’ll say that and they’ll keep on saying that because they don’t want to lose you as a patient but at the same time they’re making it more frustrating for you.  You have a right to every single record.

LEWIS:  So those are your property?

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  Those are your property.  Now they may charge you a small fee for making copies for you. 

LEWIS:  Now what about those MRIs and X-rays?  Are those mine?

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  Those are yours as well.  If I have a patient that wants their X-rays, when I see them I give them back to them.  I say, “Hey we’ve got your X-rays, if you want surgery then bring them back with you or keep them,” or they can leave them with us.  Once again, you have the option of what you want to do.  It’s a big red flag for me when it’s difficult for you to get your information and I have people that get information from me all the time.  My staff is very good at it, they say, “Okay, we’ll get your records.  We’ll make you copies; whatever you need. And charge you $10 bucks for a copy, whatever.”  There’s some places out there that will charge you like $1,000 or something like that.   They’ll put up as many hurdles as possible for you to get your records, and some people may think that this is just part of the system, but it’s not.  

LEWIS:  For a lot of people it’s intimidating to have to keep calling and calling and calling.  

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  And a lot of people give up.  And that’s what they’re anticipating you’ll do; that’s what they’re hoping for.  It’s kind of like when we submit a claim to an insurance company for a surgery or whatever we’ve done, their first response is to deny the claim.  And then we have to resubmit it.  And usually they pick it up after the second or third re-submission and that’s because they have figured out that a certain number of those docs out there will basically drop it because they don’t want to deal with it.  That’s why we have to hire people to be specifically our billing and collections people, which we never had to do before.  Their job is to see if they can resubmit those claims and get them back because they keep on getting bumped back or denied when we submit them.  

LEWIS:  You’re saying that a great majority of them are?

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  Yeah.  There’s about a three month turnover time.  If I did your knee surgery tomorrow, I probably would not get paid for that for about three months because it goes into collections and we submit it for collection and it gets denied and we resubmit it and it probably gets denied and maybe the third time it gets picked up.  

LEWIS:  That’s unbelievable.  And it’s even though they’ve approved it in most cases.  

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  Exactly.  And that’s just part of the red tape most people don’t know about in regards to medicine and the headaches that we have to deal with as physicians.  That’s part of the game that the insurance companies have played with us forever.  You can ask Danny. His head splits in half when he has to deal with this all the time in regards to therapy because he has to resubmit and resubmit.  They’ll keep on denying and keep on denying and just hope that after awhile people will just get tired of just asking and then they’ll just drop it.  That’s why you have to have a good staff that’s going to be diligent and keep working on it.  

LEWIS:  That’s a whole other topic there.

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  It’s a big mess, let me tell you.  

LEWIS:  You’re waiting three months for your money and you’ve already put out the expense of the operation.

DR. J. MICHAEL BENNETT:  Yeah, exactly.  You’re waiting for three months.  

But that’s a whole other topic and we could definitely spend another hour on that in regards to the future of medicine.  Anyway, that was a great show today and I appreciate you guys for tuning in.  This is Saturdays with Dr. Jay.  I wanted to give another shout out to the Texas Sports Medicine Institute, www.texassportsmed.com

And you can check me out at my website at:  www.jmichaelbennett.com.  

Please call our office at 281-633-8600 for an appointment with Dr. Bennett, or you can schedule an appointment online using ZocDoc by clicking the link on the right side of the page.

Dr. J. Michael Bennett

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