December 2, 2012

Welecting the best orthopaedic specialist for your care

Family Health Matters:
The right to choice: selecting the best orthopaedic specialist for your care

When primary care physicians (PCPs) are asked to treat pain associated with joints, bones, or ligaments, they will frequently refer patients to an orthopaedic specialist for more advanced care.

But, did you know that in all cases you can request a referral to a specific specialty group from your PCP?

“Physicians make referrals based on a number of factors. While their recommendations are important, remember that you have the right to choose,” says Dr. Tuvi Mendel, foot and ankle specialist at Orthopaedic Specialists. “Do your own research and ask around. If you don’t agree with the initial referral provided by your PCP, know that you can request a referral to a particular group or specialist.”

The administrative team at your PCP’s office can often fill out your patient referral form and help you make an appointment, so don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek assistance.

According to Angie Van Utrecht, Director of Operations at Orthopaedic Specialists, a referral isn’t needed at all to see a specialist, unless your insurance requires it. “Many specialist groups don’t require a referral in order to be seen or treated. At Orthopaedic Specialists, simply call and make an appointment,” she said. The only reason that we would require a referral is if a patient has an HMO plan, and in that case, it is required by the insurance company to obtain one.”

Whether using the specialist recommended by your PCP, or deciding to go in a different direction, it’s always worthwhile to research potential specialists and seek as much information as possible about their education, experience and reputation.

“The challenge patients face today is that there is so much information available, it can be difficult to determine what will most impact their quality of care, specifically when it comes to orthopaedics,” says Van Utrecht. “In reality, you can ask a few simple questions or seek a few simple answers and learn a great deal.”

With so much information now available online and through advertising, it’s important to know what you’re looking for when researching a specialist.

Focus your research, which can be done by looking online or at websites, calling the office, picking up print materials, or through trusted contacts, on getting answers to the following questions:

• Is your specialist board certified? Determine if he or she is certified to focus in the specific area of your concern.
• Is your specialist also fellowship trained? In other words, has your specialist completed an extra program in the orthopaedic area of your concern and if so, does he continue to practice in that area? This is extremely important, as it assures your specialist will have expansive expertise.
• If you are going to need surgery, how many of these types of surgery has your specialist done? The more surgeries your specialist has done, the more experience he or she will have. Additionally, you can ask about infection rates and success rates; specialists who are proud of their work and success will readily provide this information.
• Do you know anyone who has had firsthand experience with the specialist? While someone else’s treatment and results can’t be compared to what you will experience, you can rely on trusted word-of-mouth to gain an understanding of the overall experience.

Deciding on a specialist doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Complete the research, ask trusted resources, and don’t settle for any care that isn’t exactly right for you.

For more information about the procedures and services that Orthopaedic Specialists provides, please visit our website at