The number of rating stars on review sites is NOT enough!
Perhaps you have visited some of the many physician reputation and rating sites that are found on the Internet. You may have even looked at websites that rate doctors along with restaurants, cleaners and other businesses. While these sites may be useful to give you some information about doctors they should not necessarily be viewed as correct or reliable.
Unfortunately, the experience of a patient I recently saw for a follow up visit is not uncommon. I diagnosed his prostate cancer several months ago and we discussed treatment options, including radical surgery, High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), cryoablation, and radiation. He chose to have a robotic radical prostatectomy at a hospital in southern California.
When he returned to see me post-operatively, the news was not good. He is now totally incontinent. He wears 6 – 12 diapers every day. He no longer gets erections. When I asked him why he chose the doctor who performed his robotic surgery he said “he has 5 stars on the Internet so he has to be good.”
When he asked me if HIFU was still an option because of the low incontinence and ED rates, I told him that it would not help him after surgery. He is now looking at a life of urinary incontinence or further surgical procedures including placement of an artificial urinary sphincter or a urethral mesh. Both can have significant side effects and complications. I also had to tell him that he will no longer get spontaneous erections.
I wanted to learn more about the impact these rating/review sites are having on patient’s decision making process. I read an informative article in Urology, a medical journal. The authors evaluated the outcomes of surgical procedures at hospitals that had been well ranked in US News and World Health Report, Healthgrades (a popular health website) and Consumer Reports. The first two had very poor correlation with surgical outcomes including hospital readmission, surgical complication and death rates. Consumer Reports had a fair correlation with readmission rates.
It is important to note that none of the healthcare reputation sites on the Internet, and no consumer publication, has access to the information that’s important in making a selection of a physician. They do not know what physicians and medical professionals discuss in surgery department meetings or hospital quality improvement committees.
So, if you can’t rely on the information that’s published by these uninformed sources, and if you want to avoid the life changing side effects experienced by my patient, what can you do?
One good source is other patients who have had procedures like you may be contemplating. If you do not have a family member or friend as a resource, I routinely ask other patients to discuss their experiences with patients contemplating a procedure.
Most importantly, it’s having confidence in your doctor to provide accurate information about the potential side effects and complications of any given procedure. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And be certain to ask your doctor how much experience he or she has with a specific surgical procedure. Ask how many cases he or she has done. Ask about the results. The information will be helpful to you in making an informed decision.
To learn more about prostate cancer and advanced treatments, call us to schedule an appointment, in person or online, with Dr. Robert Pugach. He is one of the most experienced HIFU practitioners in the world and offers HIFU to patients from across the United States and around the world.
Western States HIFU, located in Los Alamitos, CA is the most experienced HIFU prostate cancer treatment center west of the Mississippi!