When choosing an orthopedic specialist, it can be challenging to know where to start. You want to find the best provider possible, and you need to be able to trust that the specialists you’re seeing have the proper training and expertise. After all, when it comes to your health, it’s always a good idea to go with the best.
Finding an orthopedic specialist or clinic doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five steps to help select the right orthopedic clinic.
1) Evaluate the Doctor's Credentials (Training & Specialization)
Not all doctors are created equal; some go above and beyond to become experts in their field. A "Fellowship-Trained physician" is a doctor who completes four years of college, four years of medical school, five years of residency, was accepted to a subspecialty fellowship program, and completed an additional year of specialty training in a specific field of orthopedic surgery. Some physicians take it one step further and become "Board Certified." This means the doctor has also passed the grueling exams commonly called “the boards.” The years of training and voluntary board exams show a dedication and proficiency in one’s field, which can give you the confidence that you are seeing an orthopedic expert.
2) Get Referrals
Many patients are sent to an orthopedic specialist by their general practitioner. While most doctors will give you a recommendation, probe a little deeper and find out why they are recommending a particular specialist. Ask friends and family—you might be surprised how many people you know that have needed an orthopedist.
3) Skilled Specialists in Non-Invasive and Invasive Treatment Options
As a patient, it’s a good idea to find a practice and a physician that is as knowledgeable in non-invasive options other than a surgical one. Whether it's an injection clinic that offers no surgical options or a surgeon whose only answer is surgery, they both have a one size fits all mentality. For the best care, a doctor creates an individual, custom plan based on an exam and your unique situations and needs. After all, you are talking about restoring your quality of life!
4) Alignment with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) Guidelines and Research
The AAOS has conducted a massive amount of research, particularly in medication timing and dosing levels. As they have a much larger pool of patients and procedures to draw upon, the AAOS has developed guidelines and best practices in an effort to maximize all patients' results. In other words, when the AAOS talks, the best orthopedists listen!
5) Insurance Coverage
Medical bills are frequently the single biggest reason for bankruptcy, and this isn't just people without insurance! Unfortunately, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund, the number of underinsured Americans is rapidly increasing from approximately 29 million in 2010 to 44 million in 2018. Be sure to check with your physician AND your insurance company to fully understand what you are paying and what the insurance is covering.