How Do I Check on Doctors and Hospitals?

I’m hoping someone can give me a jump start on this. A friend of mine is going in for surgery at a particular hospital. Another friend is quite concerned about the reputation of the particular hospital (which is why I don’t want to name it).

I’ve been asked to find out everything I can about the hospital, my friend’s proposed surgeon, if there is a rating system for hospitals in general and doctors in particular, can malpractice records be checked, the whole noodle.

Any suggestions at all, basic to complex, would be greatly appreciated, and thank you in advance for helping to put my friends’ minds at ease, as well as my own.

Call your local public library, ask to speak to the Reference librarian, and ask her/him for information on your state’s licensing boards, etc.

Try Healthstreet.

One thing you might try, is to call the operating room at this particular hospital(call the main hosp. number and ask to be transferred to the OR). Ask to speak to one of the OR nurses or one of the Anesthesiologists. Simply ask them who they would have operate on them. These people see every surgeon almost every day and know who’s good and who’s not.

Hey, thanks for the help, everyone. I used sdimbert’s link to properly identify the hospital itself (it was, of course, misspelled when given to me), and while I couldn’t identify the surgeon in question, I did identify several of his partners on his P.A. masthead–they seem to be quite good people.

I collected websites, phone numbers, articles, and other interesting information and forwarded it to another one of my pals who lives in the state and town in question, so my part of the job is probably done for now while someone else pounds the pavement. I also sent along Duck’s and GasDr’s suggestions, which were well received indeed.

The issue is a little more dodgy than I care to let on, so suffice to say that our natural concern is that the patient seems more concerned with discretion than effective treatment, and the patient is exhibiting a rather characteristic bull-headedness about the whole thing.

All of your help is very kindly appreciated.

Hmm… I used HealthStreet to look up a local doctor who lost his license due to drug abuse and 81 cases of extreme malpractice. He’s listed in there with no comment whatsoever.

There used to be a book called something like “America’s Best and Worst Doctors” that published all this info, and the AMA sued them to stop publishing. So they stopped. Some state governments are setting up websites to publish names of bad doctors but I haven’t seen any go online so far.

FYI, I read a medical article that said the biggest thing you can do to improve your odds of successful surgery is make sure the surgeon has performed that specific surgery at least 7 times. They said that positive outcome rates increase dramatically after 7 surgeries. Even expert surgeons need practice in specific procedures.

I wouldn’t suggest this.

Many hospitals (if not most) will not ring John Q. Public through to the OR. I know that there is no way in hell it would happen in the hospital where I work. The OR is a rather important, regulated and restricted area of the hospital. They don’t let just anyone come in and walk around and they don’t really accept general information calls. You may be lucky enough to get them to page the anesthesiologist on call but that would probably be about it.

Most surgeons are busy saving people’s lives–they don’t really have time to take calls from the public asking them their opinions of their colleagues. That’s what physician referral lines are for.

Imagine that Dr. Smith is anxiously waiting for a call letting him know that his heart for a transplant has arrived. He is busy closing up a patient when his beeper goes off. He has a resident close for him so he can take what he thinks is his very important call and instead of the transplant team, it’s old Mrs. Johnson. She wants to know if Dr. Smith can recommend someone to do her cataract surgery next month. The doctor has now just left a patient he could have been working on and is tied up on the phone referring patients when he could be tracking down that heart. Not important? You would think so if you were the heart recipient! Now, if you run into Dr. Smith at the grocery store, while it would be rude to bother him “off duty” (or whatever) that would be a more appropriate way to approach him for this information.

Okay, this was longer than I expected it to be. In short, just to be sure, call the hospital and ask them if they offer a surgeon referral line or recommend a referral website before demanding to be rung to the OR.