When looking for a plastic surgeon, is it fair/appropriate to ask for patient referrals?

I'm looking for a rhino surgeon after traumatically breaking my nose. I am finding so many doctors through this site, is it appropriate to ask the drs I consult with for referrals from former patients to whom I can speak. It is hard to gauge the accuracy of the reviews online, and I am not sure I could move forward with trusting a surgeon to alter my face without speaking to a patient first-hand. I don't mean to be rude by asking...just trying to do as much research as possible!

Doctor Answers 7

Of course it's fair, and the surgeon should make it available for you.

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Your request is completely reasonable. At our office, we get that request frequently. 

We keep a list of our surgery patients who have offered to give a first-hand account of their experience to someone like you -- a prospective patient who wants to talk to someone who's already been through it.

We arrange for them to talk or email with each other. It's easy to arrange, and it can be very comforting for someone who is considering surgery and trying to gather all the information she can before making a decision.

Omaha Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Surgeon selection due diligence

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Dear whonose,

    The answer to your question is absolutely 'yes' . This is your responsibility to yourself , to be comfortable and confident  with your surgeon, in order to achieve the best surgical outcome. In my practice, if a patient is requesting references from my patients ( quite rare ), my office staff will contact few of my patients and ask them to contact that specific patient and discuss their personal experience. This way, there is no violation of the privacy law.

   Other wise due diligence steps are the following:

    1.Consult only with experienced board certified plastic surgeons who operate in accredited surgery center for your safety.

    2. Check the before and after pictures of the surgeons, to make sure that they are numerous, consistent and attractive.

    3. Check the reviews on 'RealSelf' for ratings and positive experience reports.

    4. Select a surgeon who is attentive and responsive to your questions , and the office staff are helpful.

                      Best of luck,

                                            Dr Widder

Patient referrals

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I personally find it very difficult to have former patients discuss their experience with prospective patients. Best of luck.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Asking for referrals

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It's fine to ask but the fact is doctors cannot give out personal information about patients. While many patients would be happy to speak to you they don't want to give their information out or be burdened with having to call a prospect.  I have sometimes had a prospective new patient return on a day when I know there are some post operative rhinoplasty patients scheduled and then I ask the patient while they are there if they would mind speaking to a new patient. Most are willing but I can't guarantee it.

An experienced rhinoplasty surgeon should have an extensive portfolio of before and after pictures of patients they have operated on for you to look at. This is often the best way to judge the work combined with having a sense of connection with the surgeon.

Michael L. Schwartz, MD
West Palm Beach Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

You may benefit by speaking with one of your surgeon's patients about their rhinoplasty experience.

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You can reach out to anyone on RS who may have written a review and request a conversation. Many patients would be happy to "pay it forward" and chat with you. Similarly, it would not be inappropriate to request your surgeon to ask a patient to give you a ring. You need to be completely certain you wish to proceed with rhinoplasty, so if this would be reassuring for you, it's a fair request that should be well received. Hope this helps you. Dr Joseph

Eric M. Joseph, MD
West Orange Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 435 reviews

Find the right surgeon

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Hello and thank you for your question.  There are laws which protect patient privacy, so this is tricky.  I do have some patients who specifically have asked me to give out their contact information to potential patients who may be facing some of the same challenges they faced when trying to make their decision.  This can be very helpful.  In addition, it is very important that you thoroughly research your surgeon before committing to surgery. It is a good idea to research your surgeon's educational background, online reviews, before & after pictures, and speak with anyone who you may know who has had surgery with that surgeon. During your consultation, make sure that you don't feel rushed and make sure that you have adequate time with your surgeon and not just their patient coordinator or nurses. If the majority of your consultation is spent with someone other than the surgeon, this is usually not a good sign. The most important aspect is to find a surgeon you are comfortable with. I recommend that you seek consultation with a qualified board-certified expert surgeon who can evaluate you in person.

Best wishes and good luck.

Richard G. Reish, M.D.
Harvard-trained plastic surgeon

Richard G. Reish, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 174 reviews

Privacy Issues and Choosing the Right Surgeon

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Choosing the right surgeon is one of the most difficult decisions a patient has to make when considering rhinoplasty. While it would be nice to offer prospective patients the opportunity to speak with former practice patients, federal privacy laws or HIPAA regulations prevent physician practices from sharing such contact and confidential information. A physician can earn your trust and confidence in other ways, including your personal experience with the doctor/ staff, asking about experience, researching reviews, evaluating portfolio of results, examining credentials and awards, contacting your state medical specialty society or licensing board, speaking with family and friends for referrals, speaking with your family physician or other health professionals whom can give an opinion about reputation and competence, etc. I applaud your interest in properly researching your potential surgeon and gaining trust before committing to surgery. Your instincts are solid and will help guide you to your best personal choice. Best wishes. 

Fred J. Bressler, MD, FACS
Houston Facial Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.