Watch out for non-qualified professionals performing surgery: Internet Scambusters #683
They may have medical credentials but is the specialist you're trusting yourself to qualified for the surgery you need?
For all sorts of reasons, they may not be. But we'll tell you how to find out in this week's issue.
And we've got a warning about a simple phishing trick targeting holders of American Express cards.
Now, here we go...
Know Who's Performing Your Surgery
When you go into hospital or a clinic for surgery, it's natural to assume that the person who is going to perform the work is qualified to do so.
But that isn't always the case.
Just like any profession or job, the healthcare industry has its share of people who aren't who you think they are.
We already touched on the issue of qualifications and credentials in an earlier issue: How to Do a Credentials Check on Almost Anyone.
But that doesn't account for what happens when medically qualified professionals carry out procedures they're not licensed to do.
In other words, they may be qualified to practice in some surgical capacity but not the one they're actually practicing.
This can happen in one of two ways.
First, a surgeon may perform procedures he's not qualified to do.
For example, they may misrepresent their skills and qualifications or they may be called on in an emergency to work in areas of need.
Or, they may be fully qualified in one country but not licensed or registered to practice in the U.S. In some cases, they may only have what's called "limited registration" that restricts which surgeries they can perform.
It's a relatively simple matter to check the qualifications of a surgeon with state Medical Boards.
Most have a search feature on their websites. You key in the name of the doctor and the search returns details of their license and the fields in which they're qualified to practice.
You can also visit the American Board of Medical Specialties credential-checking site. Note that you may be required to register (for free).
More Than Assisting
In the second instance, a person who is, for example, a surgical assistant or physician assistant actually carries out surgical procedures, in place of the doctor they work for.
A particular case in point was highlighted in a recent court case where it was claimed that a physician assistant who was neither licensed nor trained to carry out surgery had in fact performed orthopedic procedures on hundreds of patients.
His boss, an orthopedic surgeon, and several others were subsequently charged with insurance fraud said to involve more than $100 million.
The case was ongoing at the time of writing, but the court was told that the assistant involved had previously been cited for alleged violations by his state's Physician Assistant Board.
Physician assistants and surgical assistants, of whom there are about 85,000 in the United States, play a critically important role in procedures. But unless they have other qualifications, mostly they should not perform surgery other than very minor procedures.
According to the American College of Surgeons (ACS) their job is to "provide aid in exposure, hemostasis, closure, and other intraoperative technical functions that help the surgeon carry out a safe operation with optimal results for the patient."
They're also responsible for pre-operative and post-operative care, as directed and supervised by the surgeon.
Of course, since you are under anesthetic, there's no way of reliably establishing who performs your surgery, but it does underline the importance of asking your surgeon to confirm who will be conducting the procedure, their qualifications for doing so, and ensuring you see him or her before the procedure begins.
You might also ask in advance for information about any assistant who will be taking part and checking out their credentials including whether there have been any citations with your state Physician Assistant Board.
There are also several professional organizations representing assistants who may be able to provide qualification details, notably the American Board of Surgical Assistants (www.nbsa.net).
However, a good starting point is the online verification service offered by the National Registry for Surgical Assistants.
One area that has become a source of recent concern is the field of cosmetic surgery and the blurred distinction between what might be defined as surgery and a non-surgical procedure.
For example, Registered Nurses may be licensed to do derm abrasions and Botox or filler injections (with or without physician supervision) but not other types of cosmetic work.
And then, there's a whole thriving "black market" of bogus cosmetic service providers who operate outside the law in a market that thrives because it's relatively cheap.
If you are considering any type of cosmetic procedure, you absolutely must check the credentials and qualifications of the providers with your state Medical Board and/or the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Don't use an unqualified specialist for surgery.
With Botox and filler injections, according to a report in the New York Daily News, doctors, registered nurses, and even dentists only need to complete a two-day course to be permitted to provide this service.
So, make sure you check out the reputation rather than just the credentials of the provider.
And be wary if the provider tries to persuade you to undergo procedures you don't want or they're reluctant to talk about the risks of the work.
Whatever procedure you have, for your own safety, the onus is on you to check out the authenticity and reputation of the provider.
It's no good waiting until after the surgery to discover you've been the victim of an unqualified practitioner.
Alert of the Week
If you're an American Express card user, watch out for a spoof email pretending to be from the company notifying you of a "slight error in our regular verification process."
It's a phishing attempt to find your account sign-on details.
A link inside the email looks like it points to American Express and it even has its name as part of the address.
But don't click it. Ditch it.
If you get a worrying email about any credit or debit card you have and you want to check it out, go to the card company's genuine website and check from there.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!