8 Tips for Choosing a General Surgeon

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a General Surgeon
    A Personal Decision
    Knowing you need to see a general surgeon can be concerning. However, keep in mind that depending on your particular condition, a general surgeon may not necessarily recommend surgery. Your general surgeon is there to guide you through many decisions about protecting your health and surgically treating a condition. How do you find the best general surgeon who is right for you? Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
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    1. Get Referrals
    Start with the referral list from your primary care doctor or specialist. You can also ask family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow down your list, call each general surgeon’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor.
  • 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a General Surgeon
    2. Research the General Surgeon’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing a general surgeon. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in general surgery. Fellowship training involving the specific type of surgery you need is extremely valuable. Also confirm that the general surgeon has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the general surgeon’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
  • 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a General Surgeon
    3. Consider the General Surgeon’s Experience
    When you’re facing the potential need for surgery, experience matters. The more experience with a particular condition or procedure a general surgeon has, the better your results are likely to be. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the general surgeon has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
  • 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a General Surgeon
    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important to feel comfortable with your general surgeon’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. When it comes to certain types of general surgery procedures, your own gender is also an important consideration. General surgeons are becoming more skilled in caring for women and men differently. Ask the general surgeon about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.
  • 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a General Surgeon
    5. Research Hospital Quality
    Your surgeon's​ hospital is your hospital. For this reason, consider the quality of care at the hospital where the general surgeon can provide care. Hospital quality matters to you because patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Two nearby hospital may report extremely different outcomes for the surgery you need. Additionally, think about whether the hospital’s location is important to you. Frequent trips to the general surgeon’s office or hospital may mean you need a convenient location to make it manageable.
  • 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a General Surgeon
    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a general surgeon with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the surgeon, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Find a general surgeon who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
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    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a general surgeon who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a general surgeon from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing a General Surgeon | Hospital Choice Matters Too
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2015 Jun 13
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.