Tout ne change, rien ne change as the French are fond of saying; the more things change the less they change.
In the old days in rural America, it was a big event when the travelling medicine man came to town plying his trade with new fangled elixirs and potions that would cure everything from rheumatism to lumbago to every sort of itch you could imagine. Of course, almost all of the secret formulas were bogus but because people wanted to believe these tonics would cure all their ailments, well, in desperation the folks just lined up and begged to give their money away.
Are things any different today? We are constantly bombarded with TV, radio, print and billboard signs with promises to help you lose 80 pounds by having a particular surgery; poof, all your problems are gone and you too can look like a Victoria’s Secret model! You have chronic back pain? No problem, we can fix you up in a jiffy with minimally invasive surgery leaving you with only a band-aid and a tiny, tiny scar and, wonder of wonders, no spine pain!
Have wrinkles and your face is falling into you lap? Easy-peasy as the Brits say, we’ll inject you with botox; but, hey, never mind the Joan Rivers or Nancy Pelosi expressions (or lack therein), you too will look great! Need an adjustment? Hey, step right up son, and try our new computerized back-stretching machine! We can solve all your problems with only 30 treatments in five easy payments! Can’t see? Try our new and advanced super-dooper laser eye surgery that eliminates all your problems in one easy procedure. Concerns, you say? Not to worry because I’ve done 4.862 million of these.
Sound familiar to you? Now I’m not suggesting or advancing the idea that none of these things that appear to be described above don’t work, but what I am saying is that it is necessary to read the fine print (or in the case of laser eye surgery, have someone else read it for you) and ask the right questions. In the old days there was no way to gather information about exactly what you were buying, and more importantly whether or not it worked. We have that ability today; it’s called the Internet.
The crux of the matter is knowing what questions to ask and not to be afraid of asking them. One of the more difficult things to do is to remain objective about you. Remember the old saw A lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client! So what you want to do is to make a list of your questions in advance of any visit or telephone interview.
First, and foremost, make sure that the person to whom you speak is the physician that is performing the procedure or who is advertising the service. Should you get a return call from a P.A. or a person in a sales department, that’s not a very encouraging sign. If the doctor is neither the first nor the second individual to whom you speak, I would recommend seeking attention elsewhere. If the communication is bad prior to the service or procedure being performed, it will likely not get better over time.
The following is a generalized list of questions that you should ask before you subject yourself to any surgical procedure; should the responses be not to your satisfaction, then either make sure they are, or consider seeking attention elsewhere:
- 1. If you are calling regarding a new procedure or implant, you will want to know whether the procedure or implant is FDA approved.
- 2. You want to know how experienced the physician is in performing the procedure; how many has he or she performed, especially if the procedure is new, and what have been the results? What are their results and what are the published results in the specialty literature, both over the long and short term?
- 3. What is considered the Gold Standard procedure that the new and improved procedure is replacing and what are the advantages and disadvantages of the new over the old?
- 4. What are the acceptable complications? All procedures have minor complications or even some major ones that are deemed within the realm of what is reasonable. You need to know what these are.
- 5. Are there any hidden costs; that is, are there charges at a later date for other portions of the procedure that are not included in the price of what you understand to be the price? Are there additional costs for durable medical equipment for instance, or for braces or CPM equipment rental? Will you require a TENS unit for pain control?
- 6. What will you require for pain control after the operation and how long will you need to take the medication?
- 7. Will you require assistance at home following the procedure? What will you be able to do and when will you be able to do it?
- 8. When will you be able to drive safely?
- 9. How much will the procedure cost? You must also be prepared to get the proper CPT Codes for all the things necessary that will be included in the procedure and then YOU must check yourself with your insurance carrier and see what is covered by your policy! This is your job and not that of the doctor’s office staff.
- 10. What will be the total cost of the procedure, all inclusive save the charges for the anesthesiologist who also must be contacted for some of the information covered above?
No one is responsible for you other than you! Be an informed consumer. Always check the fine print, and as we all know, there is no fine print on billboards. Therefore ask for it when and if you respond to these or any advertisements. If you are informed you are armed. Information is real currency for reasonable outcome expectation and reasonable outcome expectation is the basis for a good and lasting professional relationship with your doctor. It also helps to insure a good surgical result by the way, and that keeps everyone happy.