6 Tips to Find Quality Hand and Upper Extremity Care
We depend on our hands for a lot of things. Answering the phone. Typing on a computer. Holding our newborn baby. Our hands are crucially important to how we live and work, yet we often take them for granted…
…until we experience an injury or discover a new condition that results in pain, in diminished functionality.
When this happens, we realize how important our hands are to everyday life. When they hurt, we lose sleep. When they don’t work, we can’t work either. So we miss out on the things we need and the things we love. And that’s when finding quality hand and upper extremity care becomes most important. We search for solutions that can relieve our discomfort. But we may discover that finding a treatment provider and getting quality care are two different things.
So, how can you improve your chances of finding the latter when beginning your search? Here are five characteristics that distinguish the best hand doctors and practices from their peers.
1. Experience and training
When it comes to professional service, experience matters for nearly every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Training and experience are essential factors to consider when looking for the highest quality of patient care and best clinical outcomes.
But what should you look for exactly when it comes to the experience and training of your hand care provider? We recommend finding a physician that possesses the following characteristics, which you can verify by searching the Federation of State Medical Boards website.
Fellowship-trained from an ACGME-accredited institution
Fellowship training provides physicians with the advanced clinical and academic knowledge and skills needed for hand and upper extremity care. But not all fellowship programs are created equal.
That’s why you should verify that your physician completed a fellowship program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which sets standards for US graduate medical residency and fellowship programs.
You’ve likely come across the phrase “board certified” in your search for a physician or specialist. Board certifications require physicians to meet the necessary qualifications to practice. These qualifications are specialty-specific and conducted by independent, objective third-parties. Because the process holds physicians to rigorous standards, board certification offers another important filter to use when searching for a hand care provider.
For hand and upper extremity care, look for physicians who maintain:
- General certification by American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, American Board of Plastic Surgery, or American Board of Surgery
- Subspecialty Certificate in Surgery of the Hand
While obtaining both kinds of certifications listed earlier is not required, physicians who do receive more training and meet additional standards and requirements than those who only obtain a general certification.
Medical societies play an important role in career development and continuing medical education for physicians, among other benefits. For hand and upper extremity care providers, look for doctors belonging to one or more of the following associations specializing in hand and upper extremity care:
- American Association for Hand Surgery
- American Society for Surgery of the Hand
- Microsurgical Reconstructive Surgery Society
2. Onsite Technology
Medical and diagnostic technology play a vital role in a physician’s ability to accurately and effectively detect and diagnose your condition. That’s why you should seek physicians who operate in healthcare facilities with sophisticated and comprehensive technology onsite. Doing so can accelerate your evaluation and treatment, improve your overall experience, and lead to more coordinated and effective care.
For hand and upper extremity care, look for practices that offer the following:
- Onsite or nearby magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Ultrasound imaging
- 3D Computed Tomography (CT)
- Nerve conduction studies
3. Onsite Therapy
Physical and occupational therapy are important to the successful recovery of many hand and upper extremity conditions. Most hand care providers lack a therapy center onsite, which may require additional travel between your doctor’s office and a therapy facility to comply with your treatment regimen. It can also lead to delayed therapy, less effective coordination, and other issues. However, some hand care practices offer onsite therapy that enhances convenience and the care continuum between your doctor and therapist.
Look for physicians that offer:
- Onsite and comprehensive therapy services for the hand and upper extremity
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Therapists who are Certified Hand Therapists (CHT), the highest certification in hand and upper extremity therapy
- Comprehensive and sophisticated therapy technology
4. Awards and Recognition
Like other credentials, awards provide another data point in evaluating the quality of care provided by a physician. Many third-party organizations exist to identify the best performing physicians by specialty and location. While these organizations depend on different methods to evaluate physicians, they often rely on community-based or peer-to-peer surveys.
Top Doctors Lists
Your local and regional publications often publicize these awards. For patients living in New Orleans, you can see a list of top doctors by specialty in annual issues published by New Orleans Magazine, New Orleans City Business, and Inside New Orleans.
Don’t overlook a useful tool when evaluating physicians: online reviews. Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, and other local citations publish patient reviews on physicians. While this feedback may not always be reliable, they offer another data point in assessing whether a physician is right for you.
Medical affiliations between your physician’s practice and other local healthcare providers is another important consideration. If you need surgical care, it pays to find a physician affiliated with the nearest hospital or ambulatory surgery center. This ensures that you can get surgical care in a timely manner without needing to travel unnecessarily far to get it.
Ask your physician about if they have affiliations with nearby:
- Major hospitals
- Specialty surgical hospitals
- Ambulatory surgery centers
- Other important affiliations
Other professional affiliations may also validate the quality of care provided by a physician’s practice. Inquire if your hand care provider maintains affiliations with professional sports teams and/or local universities.
Location matters for many service industries, especially healthcare. Finding a convenient location not only limits your commute time, but eases the burden of undergoing the therapy that may be crucial to your recovery.
Look for physicians who practice close to where you live. Also, give preference to those who practice near a major hospital or health system. These facilities often act as central hubs for other healthcare providers, which you may need.
Getting quality care for your hand or upper extremity
By focusing on these six factors, you’ll improve your ability to find excellent and timely care, and a better overall experience.
Your hands are vitally important to your health and happiness. Which is why choosing your hand care is one of the pressing and important decisions you need to make.
If you’re dealing with a hand or upper extremity condition, contact us today. As the largest hand and upper extremity practice in the Gulf South, we provide specialized care from a team of highly trained, award winning physicians. Our state-of-the-art facility offers comprehensive, cutting-edge medical and diagnostic technology; a full-service onsite therapy center; medical and professional affiliations; and more.TALK TO A PHYSICIAN