What if the Dog Ate my Homework?

In a recent piece for the Huffington Post, Dr. Michael Yaremchuk writes about the experience of people in the US seeking out cosmetic procedures abroad.  He describes a circumstance in which cost weighs disproportionately on the decision for treatment and ultimately leads people to opt in to poor quality procedures.  This is definitely a regrettable circumstance, and I agree that a comprehensive search based on all relevant criteria (quality of outcome, # of procedures performed, complication rates, etc.) is imperative.

However, I disagree with Dr. Yaremchuk’s following comment: “With easily accessible information and communication provided by the Internet, the savvy patient can find procedures that might be otherwise unavailable to them or a surgeon who has recognized expertise in the procedure they desire.”  I would argue that by and large people do take these non-cost related factors into account (including the absence of said data) and what is flawed is the search process itself.  Even if I do all of my homework (an exhaustive search), cross the t’s and dot the i’s, the dog can still eat it.

Where do I find complication rates for doctors in the US or abroad and how accurate would this data be?  If I find a glowing patient testimonial on a doctor’s website, how do I know whether it’s a fair proxy for the average patient’s experience or the exception?  If a medical tourism facilitator recommends a doctor to me, how do I know the nature of their working relationship and if in fact it is the best doctor for me or just someone’s best buddy?  Whether looking for a doctor in New York, New Mexico, or the Netherlands I am still confronted with the same challenges in trying to corral some objectivity amidst the information.  Given that people do take the necessary steps/precautions in conducting their search for healthcare options, it is an improvement in the tools they use to do so that is necessary to bridge the gap.

by Ellery Bledsoe