How Much Should I Weigh Doctor Reviews by Patients?

I see bad reviews about my Doctor- should I cancel my scheduled surgery? He seems to have great credentials. I thought he was OK when I had my consultation. I don't see any malpractice suits, but out of 6 reviewers 3 people did not like him much. He got an 2.6 out of 4--- Now I am confused and don't know what to do?


Doctor Answers 10

Doctor reviews by patients

My take is a bit out of the box. I feel if you can personally contact the reviewing patient via e-mail /phone, than a trust can form. Remember, sometimes the reviewers are employees of that doctor, just be careful.

Regards from MIAMI

Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 174 reviews

Choosing a Plastic Surgeon.

Hi there-

For all of the reasons listed by my colleagues, including the fact that it is possible to post reviews anonymously, the fact that there is no opportunity for the surgeon to respond, and the fact that the internet is an uncontrolled environment, it is very difficult to know how much weight to give to an individual review, whether it is good or bad.

I do think that if it is possible to see a pattern forming, the reviews become more valuable... in other words, if there are many people all saying the doctor was rude and hard to talk to, then that means more than if you only heard it from one person (hopefully all of these women didn't get together and all plan to say the same thing).

It is also very important to understand that what other people might say about a surgeon should only be one of many considerations you take into account in selecting the surgeon best for you...

For a detailed review of how best to choose a surgeon and the other things you should consider in making your choice, please read this:

Choosing a Plastic Surgeon, Part 2

In a previous entry, I described how common it is for patients who contact my Orlando plastic surgery center to make the mistake of thinking that:

Anyone offering a plastic surgery procedure MUST be appropriately trained and certified to perform that procedure; this is, unfortunately, not the case.

All plastic surgery training is equal, and so shopping for the best price is the best way to choose a surgeon

In that previous entry, I explained how not all people offering plastic surgery are Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, and in fact, many are not even plastic surgeons! There are now many doctors in other specialties offering to perform plastic surgery procedures without the benefit of the years of training a plastic surgeon receives, convincing their patients that a few weeks of training is sufficient for them to learn what we learn in YEARS.

I explained the potentially dangerous error of choosing based on price.

Finally, I explained how to properly choose not only a surgeon, but also the importance of choosing the facility in which the procedure will be performed and also the anesthesia provider.

For today's entry, we'll assume a healthy understanding of these issues. Having done your homework, and ascertained that the surgeons you are considering are all plastic surgeons Board Certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, the facilities in which they operate are all certified by the AAAASF or JCAHO, and the anesthesia providers are all well-qualified, how do you make the final decision?

Here are my recommendations:

Consider the relative quality of the surgeon's medical school educations. While it is true that most medical educations will cover the basics, there is a reason that some institutions grow international reputations and perpetually fight for the best students. A medical school education among these "Best and Brightest" students and educators could reasonably be expected to produce (and historically has produced) America's finest doctors and surgeons. Ranking lists of medical schools take these things into consideration and are a useful resource. The most respected list, from US News and World Report, can be found here:

Find out where the surgeon completed his/her Plastic Surgery Residency. This is the critical and years long process of going from a medical student to a qualified plastic surgeon, where we learn to do plastic surgery by gradually taking on more responsibility under the watchful eyes of other, already trained and experienced surgeons. Just like medical schools, not all training programs are equal in the breadth, intensity and quality of training offered. Generally speaking, those programs associated with the best medical schools also provide the best training, as they will be able to attract and retain the best, most experienced and reputable professors of plastic surgery- and the quality of our training will depend on the quality of those training us. For example, I completed my own Plastic Surgery training at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the top 5 medical schools in the United States- and it also happens to be the birthplace of American Plastic Surgery.

It bears repeating that you should be absolutely sure that the surgeon you are considering is Board Certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. This is easily done at the Board's site: It's also good to know the surgeon is a member of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, which means they've completed plastic surgery training, become board certified, and maintain their education through regular attendance at conferences and meetings. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery is another important society, and a surgeon's membership in this prestigious society means that on top of everything above, their practice is heavily focused on aesthetic/cosmetic surgery.

Know that surgeons who claim to be "Board Eligible" in plastic surgery are NOT board certified. This may be because they simply have not taken the examinations- but this is doubtfully the true explanation, as The American Board of Plastic Surgery specifically prohibits claiming ANY status with The Board until and unless you have passed all examinations. Much more likely is that they were unable to pass the examinations (or simply never took them), but realize they may lose patients if they don't find a way to fool them into thinking they have status with The Board. Are you starting so understand that not all doctors have integrity?

Spend some time thinking about the interactions you have had with the surgeon and his/her staff. You should realize that having a plastic surgery procedure is NOT a singular interaction, like buying a new handbag, in which once the bag is purchased (or the surgery completed) the interaction can be considered to be complete. Rather, you are choosing to enter into a very important relationship with your surgeon, the critical portions of which should be expected to last at least a few months beyond the date of your surgery, as you recover and heal. This very important relationship should therefore be approached with the same care you would give any other... think about whether you think the surgeon will be responsive to your needs and concerns, whether your personalities will allow healthy interaction, the approachability of his/her staff, etc... Remember- you don't only want to have achieved a great outcome when all is said and done... you want to have had an uplifting and positive experience you can look back on and smile! You can have this in the best practices.

Finally, never forget that what you are really looking for is the very best outcome you can achieve. Sometimes when I'm asked by friends and family how to sort through all the claims some surgeons make of being the best choice because they (the surgeon in question) were voted "the best" by some magazine, or because the surgeon simply says they are "the best", I am reminded of the first Clinton presidential campaign, in which the slogan "It's the economy, stupid" helped Mr. Clinton win the White House. Once you've done the homework outlined above, it's all about the OUTCOME... Ask to see photos of the surgeon's previous work- and ask yourself if you would be pleased if you looked like the photos they show you. Think about how many good photos they show you. Do most of the outcomes just look funny, with only a few that you think are attractive and natural, or are all of their results pleasing and attractive, even if every one may not be what you specifically want? If the surgeon can't show you at least a few outcomes you find attractive and pleasing, you should look elsewhere. Be sure to ask directly whether the photos you are being shown are the surgeon's own work (believe it or not, some actually do try to attract patients by showing them the work of others!) Don't be fooled by the hyperbole- just as Cuba Gooding says in Jerry Maguire- think Show me the {Outcomes}!

I also always recommend communicating with a few of the surgeon's prior patients who have had the same procedure they are recommending for you. You can ask the surgeon's staff for a list of patients who may have agreed to be called, or find testimonials online at one of the many plastic surgery websites now available. My favorite, because it is objective, free (surgeons cannot pay to be listed higher, so more credibility exists), and allows you to get a feel for the surgeon's manner and personality, is RealSelf:

I know it seems like a huge amount of work, but after you've read this (as well as my prior post) a few times, you'll have a great understanding of the best way to proceed, and it will feel very comfortable and natural to you. Use the resources I've outlined, and use your gut- there are many great surgeons out there- with these guidelines you should be able to attain the outcome and experience you desire.

Armando Soto, MD, FACS
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 159 reviews

Online Patient Reviews

Online reviews should represent only one of your criteria in selecting a Surgeon. As other posters have noted, the credibility of both positive and negative reviews is somewhat contestable based on the fact that internet website review sites are anonymous. Meeting with the Surgeon and his staff (assuming the Surgeon's credentials are good) should give you a general "gut feeling" about your decision. Secondly, asking around at local hair salons (where Plastic Surgery is frequently discussed and various Surgeons' work is seen) will expand or diminish your impression. Thirdly, if you have the opportunity to discuss your decison with a former patient, you may gain further insight into the various qualities of the Surgeon. Lastly, call the office back after the consultation and get a second impression as to how responsive the staff are to your concerns.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Weighing on line reviews of plastic surgeons

Because the internet is a completely uncontrolled environment, it is possible for anybody to have negative reviews as well as fake positive reviews. Read them all carefully and trust your instinct. One of the top rhinoplasty surgeons in the USA has some of the nastiest web reviews you can imaging but he is still the best!

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

How to pick a plastic surgeon.


Three negative reviews out of six should not make you cancel surgery right away, but you certainly need to do some more research. Here are some ideas:

1) Is the surgeon a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery? Members usually do a lot of cosmetic surgery.

2) Did you sense a commitment to excellence in the office. Did the surgeon spend a lot of time with you? Someone who rushes through the consultation may rush through the surgery.

3) Were you treated as an individual? Did the surgeon present you with a surgical plan tailor made for you?

4) Plastic surgeons have to have a good eye and meticulous technique. Did the surgeon show you A LOT of before and after pictures, and did you love the results?

5) Talk to other doctors you know. Established plastic surgeons have a reputation in the community, good or bad.

6) Ask to speak to a patient who has had the procedure you want. You are looking for a surgeon who does a lot of what you want. Many patients are eager to share their experience. Privacy is preserved by having the patient call you.

7) If you are having breast augmentation, ask if the surgeon has a large inventory of different size and shape breast implants available in the operating room. A surgeon who does a lot of breast surgery will have an inventory. This way, the final implant choice does not have to be made in advance.

8) With office surgery, make sure the surgical facility is ACCREDITED. Very important safety assurance.

9) Make sure the anesthesia is given by a BOARD CERTIFIED ANESTHESIOLOGIST. Another very important safety factor.

10) Make sure the office has trained nurses available for hands-on post operative care. This can really speed recovery.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Confusion over Online Doctor Reviews

Unfortunately, the anonymity of reviews is both good and bad. It is difficult to know if the reviews are true are fabricated. Some major cosmetic surgery services were recently fined by the state of New York for posting overly positive reviews. On the other hand disgruntled customers or competitors can post overly negative reveiws with little if any repercussions.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 82 reviews

Doctor reviews

It is tough to tell you what to do. Remember someone who is unhappy with a given doctor is more likely to tell or write about it.  This may be a small number of patients and may not reflect upon the kind of doctor that person is.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Doctor Reviews

 It is important to read all reviews and not base your opinion on just a few reviews.  It is more important to make sure you are comfortable with your doctor and develop a good doctor-patient relationship.  When you are in the waiting room, talk to the other patients and see how they feel about their experience with the doctor.  You can gain valuable information in just casual chitchat with the other patients.  There are some patients that are unrealistic and are unhappy no matter what you do.  These are also the type of patients who love to go all over the internet and write bad reviews.  Because of HIPAA regulations and doctor-patient confidentiality, the doctor is prohibited from responding to the reviews.  I hope this is helpful.

David Shafer, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 77 reviews

Choosing your surgeons

You ask a very important question that is difficult to answer because there is no correct answer. Bad reviews don't necessarily mean a "bad" doctor  or a bad result. Also, some reviews may or may not be completely honest both on the good and the bad side. However, you should check out a doctor as much as possible. Ask your internist or gynecologist if they know anything about your surgeon. Ask basic questions like is he board-certified by a legitimate board.

One test I advise my patients is to ask yourself what if things went wrong -- because they can in anyone's hands? We all expect things to go right and if they do then it doesn't matter who the doctor is. But if things go wrong, do you trust that he can handle the complications? Can you communicate with him? Will he listen to you? Does he have the back-up resources, medical support, time, and know-how to address the complications? In some ways, it is very much like a marriage.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Weighing Doctor's Reviews

 Hi Fioni,

Your question is a really important one I think as patients are using the web and the reviews on the web more and more to select their physicians.  It's important to remember that all doctors will have some patients who may not be happy with the experience they had, and in general patients who are more unhappy will post their thoughts online, while the really happy patient may not be as likely to do so.  My advice is to look at all of the information you have before making a choice, including your personal experience at your consultation, the doctor's credentials, his staff, and his before and after photos.  Reviews matter, but they should not be the only consideration when picking a physician.

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 149 reviews

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.