published Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Phillips: Checklist for minor in-office surgery

by Ellen Phillips

Q: My doctor is planning minor surgery for me in his office rather than the hospital. I’m questioning his decision. What do you think? — Warren Worried

A: Dear Mr. Worried: You didn’t mention the specific procedure nor your age. Both factors are important when deciding office/surgical suite versus hospital operating room.

Let’s assume you’re not elderly, in fairly good health, and the surgery is, indeed, “minor.” My research proves interesting. These days, surgeons perform everything from removal of skin cancers, some plastic surgery, and knee arthroscopy, among others, in their office/surgical suites or hospital-based/independent outpatient surgery centers.

So for what specifics should you look?

• Be sure these places are accredited. For insurance or Medicare to pay, well respected accrediting groups must give their high five.

• According to Bottom Line Health, only 25 states regulate all outpatient procedures — a scary thought. Obviously, this info makes it even more important you cross your t’s and dot your i’s when asking questions.

• Carefully check your doc’s credentials. Be sure he or she has privileges at a local (accredited) hospital. In fact, take it a step further and insist he tells you where he has privileges and in which specialties. To be certain Doctor Daffy is board-certified in whatever your surgery is to be, check him out at (American Board of Medical Specialties.)

• Be prepared for an emergency. Let’s face it: you-know-what does happen and you don’t want to be hit with any. If a person is older, has chronic medical problems, such as a heart condition, either an in-hospital or hospital-operated outpatient center is best.

Surgical errors can and do occur so ask Doc if he has an arrangement with the local hospital and ambulance service in case of an emergency. Bottom Line stresses not to depend upon his office calling 911.

• Follow-ups are important. If something unforeseen happens afterwards when you’re at home, it’s crucial for someone to check on you. Many offices don’t offer this “courtesy” and, instead, tell you to go to the ER. If doctors or nurses aren’t available 24/7, then don’t schedule your surgery in the office.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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