Back pain doctor referral services exist all over the world. Many of these services are part of commercial websites that refer clients to physicians in their locality for targeted treatment. A doctor referral service can be a valuable resource, if it is used wisely and with certain precautionary guidelines. However, it can also be an exploitative money-maker, sending patients to caregivers who might not even be licensed or qualified. Being an informed reader, who understands how these services work, will prevent most of the typical problems from occurring due to a poor match between doctor and patient.
This article explores the benefits and drawbacks of using a referral service when seeking care for back or neck pain. We will also focus on why these services can create ethical and practical liabilities due to the financial aspects of the doctor/patient relationship.
Most doctor referral services now operate on the internet, rather than the old style of operation over the phone. Websites are an immediate and satisfying method of gathering vast quantities of medical information, in a relatively short time frame. It is no surprise that doctor referral websites are springing up all over the world wide web.
If you choose to use a phone-based service, be extremely careful about incurring substantial toll charges or 900 number fees. I have heard of a few services that actually did little more than open the phonebook to find a doctor near a patient, and then charge the patient up to $39.99 for the call. This practice is nothing short of a criminal scam and should be reported to the local Department of Consumer Affairs, Fraud Investigation Unit. Similar scams operate online, with patients paying an exorbitant fee for simply being given the name of a local doctor that they could have found in their own neighborhood phonebook.
Websites that offer referral services come in all sizes and qualities. There are huge database sites, which boast thousands of caregivers, but provide little or no valuable insight to the doctor or the services that are offered. There are many smaller sites that offer more individualized information, but are often little more than commercial forums for doctors to advertise.
Most websites do not investigate their care providers for any license problems or medical complaints before accepting their paid advertising listings. Only a small minority of sites actually give valuable personalized information about the type of treatments provided by a given doctor. Although these databases might be considerably smaller, they are often better suited for patients who are seeking a specialized type of care or a specific therapy program.
Remember, if a back doctor is paying an advertising fee, they expect some benefit. They will be marketed to you, regardless of whether they are a good match to your actual treatment needs. It is all about money. The match is one made in financial heaven and does not reflect the actual needs of the patient one bit.
Nowadays, the most commonly used referral services are certainly the ones provided by insurance carriers. Patients call their health plans looking for a particular type of care provider who accepts their coverage. It is great to receive plan acceptance, but no guarantee is given as to the quality of the care, the effectiveness of the treatment or even the economic motivations of the caregiver.
In order to better serve our readers, I have thought of various ways of hosting a successful doctor directory. There are companies which actually collect huge numbers of doctor names and contact information which are available to website owners who want to include a referral service on their own websites. Although I listened to the sales pitch of several of these companies, I just did not like the quality of their services. Many of the doctor listings were simply names and phone numbers, with no insight as to their quality, training, education, ethics or specialties.
I decided that although a large directory would be a nice service to our readers, I would prefer a smaller one, which I could supervise myself. When I finally launched our doctor directory, in early 2007, I was confident that I had made a wise choice. I promptly received several listing requests from poor quality but commercially viable caregivers, who were hastily rejected. These doctors had bad reputations that preceded them and barred them from ever being part of our network of websites. After all, we are patient advocates, not medical marketers.
The doctors who have been listed in our directory are exemplary practitioners of the healing arts and have been carefully screened to meet all guidelines for referral. I hope to grow our directory to someday include every quality care provider in the back pain industry. Until then, I will be happy with the small selection of carefully screened and recommended doctors whom I can trust and refer to all of you with a clean conscience. If you are one of these exemplary healers in the medical or complementary medical sector, feel free to submit your own application for inclusion, but no promises of acceptance are implied. We only take the best of the best.