Considerations for Hernia Patients when Selecting a Surgeon
By: Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative Patient Engagement & Advocacy Committee & Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative Board of Directors
Choosing a surgeon is a decision that can significantly impact patients’ health and well-being. When faced with this task, patients naturally have a lot of questions. The Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative (ACHQC) believes it is our obligation to listen and offer suggestions to help patients navigate the decision-making process.
Below are considerations for patients seeking a surgeon for a hernia or abdominal wall repair:
- Specialization in Hernia Surgery: Look for a surgeon who specializes in hernia and abdominal wall repairs. Inquire about the surgeon’s expertise specific to your individual circumstance. Common questions to ask include the number of surgeries performed annually and the surgeon’s surgical outcomes.
- Board Certification and Credentials: Ensure the surgeon is board-certified and has been trained in hernia repairs. Furthermore, inquire if the surgeon is affiliated with hernia-focused professional organizations such as ACHQC, AHS, SAGES, and ACS.
- Patient-Centered Care: Choose a surgeon who tailors treatment plans to your individual needs, preferences, and health conditions. A personalized approach often leads to better outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.
- Surgical Techniques and Approaches: Discuss the techniques the surgeon uses for hernia repair, such as mesh or no-mesh repairs, open surgery, laparoscopic, or robotic repair. Discuss the benefits, risks, and appropriateness to your specific circumstance.
- Experience with Complex Cases: If your situation requires a complex procedure, inquire about the surgeon’s experience in handling complex reconstructions or recurrent hernias. How often does the surgeon perform these more challenging cases?
- Follow-up Care and Support: Inquire about post-operative care, pain management, follow-up appointments, and the surgeon’s availability for addressing any concerns you may have after your surgery.
- Communication Style and Approachability: It is important that you feel comfortable with your surgeon. Choose a surgeon who communicates clearly, listens attentively, and ensures you understand the procedure, potential risks, and recovery process.
- Hospital Affiliation and Facilities: Consider the facility where the surgeon will perform your surgery. Is the location convenient? Does the location have advanced technologies available? Is there a dedicated focus on abdominal core health?
- Insurance Coverage and Financial Transparency: Understand the costs involved, including surgeon fees, hospital charges, and potential out-of-pocket expenses within and outside of your insurance plan network.
ACHQC believes that incorporating quality outcomes measurement into the selection process for a hernia surgeon is crucial for ensuring optimal care. Here are some additional characteristics a patient may wish to consider:
- Outcome Data and Success Rates: Ask about the surgeon’s track record regarding hernia surgery outcomes including the surgeon’s success rates, recurrence rates, and complication rates associated with the procedures they perform. Surgeons who transparently share this information demonstrate a commitment to quality and accountability.
- Long-Term Follow-Up Data: Inquire if the surgeon tracks long-term outcomes of their hernia surgeries. Understanding long-term outcomes can provide insights and help set expectations for the durability of the procedures.
- Quality Improvement Initiatives: Ask about the surgeon’s involvement in quality improvement initiatives and participation in programs that focus on enhancing surgical outcomes such as the ACHQC.
Recently, ACHQC launched a new Verified Surgeon of Quality program. The goal of the program is to recognize and distinguish participating surgeons for their dedication to improving the quality and value of health care for patients who suffer from hernia disease and diseases of the abdominal wall or abdominal core. ACHQC Verified Surgeons of Quality consistently enter real-world data and surgical outcomes in the ACHQC Registry and participate in ACHQC’s continuous quality improvement programs including the annual ACHQC Quality Improvement Summit.
Surgeons play a critical role in helping patients receive comprehensive, appropriate, and relevant information so that they can make informed health care decisions. Surgeons with extensive experience, a track record of successful surgeries, and a commitment to ongoing education and training are likely to provide quality care, build trust, and establish strong surgeon-patient relationships.