Does where you get treated make a difference? Why finding a medical home is important

Dr. Sandro LaRocca MD of New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C.

When you are shopping for a car or new furniture, you wouldn’t think twice about visiting multiple stores or driving extra miles to find what you need — why should your health care be any different?

Dr. Sandro LaRocca, director and founder, New Jersey Neck & Back Institute
Dr. Sandro LaRocca, director and founder, New Jersey Neck & Back Institute

The fact is that where you get treated, even for common conditions makes a huge difference — but not for the reasons you might think.

By the time you are a candidate for back surgery, you are no stranger to doctors’ offices and have likely seen multiple health care providers.

Once you decide surgery is the best option, the task of picking a surgeon begins — and opinions flood in from everywhere.

Family members will volunteer their experience with surgery, usually unsolicited, whether it’s relevant or not to your own case.

Naturally most people will conduct searches on the internet to see if there are any glaring negative news articles about the provider with which they have an appointment. Then, there are certain peer-review sites that claim to give surgeons grades and rankings.

Peer review sites can be problematic because one never knows the motivation for what is a one-sided opinion — readers have no way of knowing if there is any truth to any of the comments and descriptions.

Hospitals and insurance companies have systems in place to catch problems or surgeons that under-perform or have high complication and readmission rates. Chances are the surgeons that you are considering consulting on your case are equal in quality of service and safety standards.

So what is the criteria that you should consider that makes a crucial difference in your outcomes and healing?

Following are some principles that make a difference in your surgical experience that you can consider when deciding where to get treated:

How Involved Will the Surgeon Be with Your Personal Care?

There are excellent hospitals that have taken time to improve all systems, but not all hospitals are equal in their quality of care. You want to be sure that your surgeon and specialists are not under pressure to perform as many operations as possible.

Be sure your surgeon doesn’t have to delegate various operating room tasks, such as opening and closing incisions to hospital staff doctors and monitoring patients afterward for as long as private practitioners.

You will have the best outcome when you have a long-term follow-up relationship with your surgeon who can monitor medications such as blood thinners and antibiotics that are routinely prescribed after neck and back surgery. You want a surgeon who is accountable only to his or her own practice, rather than to the business goals of a huge hospital system.

What Kind of Access Do You Have to Your Surgeon?

At New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, every patient has access to Dr. Sandro LaRocca and the office staff, even on weekends. In addition to the obvious reasons, such as questions about healing or medication refills, the knowledge that one is supported and help is just a phone call away has everything to do with the quality of a patient’s experience. Communication is key. Accessibility is crucial.

Does the Office Staff Know Your Name and Are They Helpful?

No surgeon is a one-man band. While operating room outcomes, from making incisions to healing various anatomical situations, is a product of a surgeon’s skill and acumen, it’s made possible by a network of support staff who assist and manage many facets of a patient’s experience.

Whether it’s scheduling appointments, gathering critical intake information, explaining protocols to patients and their family members or managing the billing process, a surgeon’s administrative staff is a vital factor throughout a patient’s surgical journey.

NJNBI purposely hires staff who act as advocates for the patients. They understand the anxiety and frustrations that are routine with neck and back surgery, and they approach each patient conversation accordingly.

Neck and back surgery are by their very nature disruptive for any person — and if you are a parent with obligations to small children or who will be missing work as the recovery unfolds, the surgeon’s staff should be as accommodating as possible in managing your case.

The Bottom Line

Where you get treated makes all the difference in whether you have a positive or negative experience with neck or back surgery.

Finding a medical home means choosing a surgeon who listens attentively, clearly and patiently; explains all aspects of your condition, care and aftercare; and is available and accountable to patients.

Further, the surgeon’s staff should be helpful, encouraging and efficient as you go through the process of evaluation, surgery and aftercare. At no time should there be surprises in billing or the recovery process, and no patient should ever feel dismissed.

NJNBI isn’t just a place where people sign up for surgery, it’s a medical home for thousands of patients who are happy with their outcomes and the relief it’s brought to their lives.

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*We are located in New Jersey, USA and do not provide medical advice via email or phone. We do not accept Medicare or Medicaid, however we do participate with commercial insurance as an out of network provider.

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