Dealing with a nagging spine or neck condition is stressful enough on its own. Finding a spine specialist or surgeon to treat that condition shouldn’t be. If you are on the hunt for an experienced spine specialist near you, these four tips from Jaclyn McDaniel, Director of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center, a physician referral line, can help you simplify your search to find a doctor who fits your unique needs best.
I need to find a great spine specialist near me, where do I begin?
We get it. The thought of undergoing neck or spine surgery can be pretty scary. You want to find the best doctor for you but there are so many options to consider. What steps can you take to home in on the right spine surgeon for you?
Tip #1: Get help narrowing down your search.
Instead of researching dozens of spine specialists yourself, McDaniel recommends working with an organization that will do the legwork for you. For example, every patient who comes into Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center is paired with a patient navigator who helps the patient determine which member specialist would suit him or her best. From there, she narrows down the patient’s list of options based on various factors.
As McDaniel explains, “We work with over 40 participating physicians who specialize in orthopedics and spine treatment in North Texas. Instead of contacting all 40 doctors yourself and asking each one the same questions over and over again, you only need to cover those questions with the patient navigator once. Based on your needs—the specific spine condition, surgeon’s availability, location, insurance coverage, personality, etc.—she’ll recommend two or three doctors who best fit your needs. She will then schedule your appointment and she can even arrange for you to get a second opinion, which is something we strongly recommend.”
Tip #2: Find out if the spine specialist is licensed, fellowship trained and board certified.
Obviously, if you’re going to allow someone to perform surgery on your neck or spine, you want to make sure that the physician is licensed to perform medicine in your state. In the state of Texas, the Texas Medical Board website allows you to search by the doctor’s last name to find out license status (when license was issued, any restrictions, malpractice claims, etc.), practice information and more.
McDaniel says it’s also important to consider whether the physician has been fellowship trained. Along with medical school and residency, doctors also have the option to undergo an additional year of specialized training known as a fellowship.
“During that year, the physician trains in a specialty area of his or her choosing. For example, a doctor who studied orthopedics in medical school could focus on a specific body part during that fellowship—knee, ankle, wrist, spine and so on. There are also many subspecialties of the spine, i.e., neck vs. lower back, degenerative disc disease, artificial disc replacement, scoliosis, spine tumors, complex spine revisions, and others. Wouldn’t you rather find a surgeon who opted to get that additional year of training than someone who has only performed a handful of procedures in that subspecialty?” McDaniel says.
Board certification, where the doctor passes a test in their area of specialization, is also important. Keep in mind, a terrific surgeon who just finished his or her fellowship won’t be eligible to take their boards until one year after that training is finished. So there are some cases where board certification isn’t always necessary.
Tip #3: Look for a spine specialist who operates at a facility dedicated to spine and orthopedics.
If you’re trying to find a great spine specialist near you, it’s important that the surgery center you go to offers the special equipment that spine surgeons require, like the robotic spine surgery device used at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. Another important factor to consider is whether or not the team supporting the surgeon also specializes in the surgery or procedure you need. At Texas Health Center for Diagnostics and Surgery, they have a whole team dedicated to artificial disc replacement surgery.
Says McDaniel, “Spine and orthopedic treatment can be complicated. At Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center, we understand that. Our referral program focuses on helping patients find a doctor for spine and orthopedic care. That’s all we do. Everybody involved in supporting the patient before, during and after surgery plays a vital role. Whether it’s the patient navigator or the front desk person who greets you at your appointments or the nurse in the OR who specializes in spine procedures, every person involved plays an important role.”
Tip #4: Choose a spine specialist you trust.
When you’re looking for a spine surgeon, finding someone who specializes in the type of procedure or treatment you need clearly should be a top priority. At the same time, McDaniel believes finding a doctor you trust is equally important.
“We can help point you in the right direction, and we’ll do everything we can to place you with a doctor who is most appropriate for you. But at the end of the day, it’s all about how you connect with the doctor, and it’s up to you to decide if that doctor is right for you. If you don’t feel like he or she is a good fit, we’re happy to recommend a different physician for you,” McDaniel says.
You don’t need to go at it alone
If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, you can count on the team at Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center to guide you through your spine care journey.
Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center