Nobody wants to undergo surgery. But if your doctor has exhausted all non-surgical options and you still need relief from a condition such as hernia, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, thyroid or parathyroid disease, breast cancer, gallbladder, Crohn’s disease, or other debilitating conditions, surgery may be your best option. Time to do some homework to find the most qualified and experienced surgeon for your needs. General surgeons are educated and trained in the diagnosis and preoperative, operative, and postoperative management of patient care. Some surgeons put in the extra time required to offer state-of-the-art robotic surgery to provide greater precision and more favorable outcomes.

Begin your search by asking your primary care doctor for references. You may also ask family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Research the credentials and experience of the surgeons they recommend on sites such as Look for surgeons who are board certified. Board certification is a voluntary process that demonstrates a surgeon’s commitment to professionalism, lifelong learning, and quality patient care. Board-certified surgeons have completed at least five years of residency training following medical school, met all American Board of Surgery training requirements, and successfully completed a rigorous examination process.

As you narrow your list, call each surgeon’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor. When you do, inquire about their experience with the condition you have or procedure you need. How many patients they’ve treated with your condition? Ask about potential complication you may have and what your risk factors may be?

Ask which hospital or out-patient center they use then research that facility. Your surgeon’s​ hospital is your hospital and patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. Frequent trips to the general surgeon’s office or hospital may mean you need a convenient location to make treatment manageable.

Evaluate each surgeon’s communication style. Are you comfortable talking to them about what can be very personal topics? Do they welcome your questions and answer them in ways you understand? Do they show an interest in getting to know you? Are they receptive to your treatment preferences? Do they include your input in decisions related to your care?

Peruse some patient satisfaction surveys. Patient satisfaction surveys typically ask people about their experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how they practice medicine, as well as how their medical practice is operated. You can learn about how well patients trust them, how much time they spend with their patients, and how well they answer questions.

Find out what your insurance covers. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket, you may need to choose a general surgeon who participates in your plan. But you should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a general surgeon from that plan.