8 Tips for Choosing a Hand Surgeon

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on May 11, 2020
  • clenched hand
    A Personal Decision
    Hand problems require special care because of the complex structures and mechanics of the hand. A hand surgeon has the expertise to provide that care, which may not necessarily be surgery. You will rely on your hand surgeon to guide you through treatment decisions and preserve the function of your hand. How do you find the best hand surgeon who is right for you? Here are important factors to keep in mind.
  • Notes written while bracing file on legs
    1. Get Referrals
    Get started by asking your primary care doctor or other specialist for a referral list. Family, friends, and other healthcare professionals are also good resources for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow your list, call each hand surgeon’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the surgeon.
  • woman on laptop
    2. Research the Hand Surgeon’s Credentials
    Board certification is an important factor to consider when you are choosing a hand surgeon. Certification tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide specialized hand care. Subspecialty fellowship training in hand surgery is also extremely valuable. Also confirm that the hand surgeon has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the hand surgeon’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
  • wrist bones injury
    3. Consider the Hand Surgeon’s Experience
    When it comes to complex hand problems and restoring the function of your hand, experience matters. The more experience a doctor has, the better your results are likely to be. A hand surgeon specializes in diagnosing and treating problems with any of the structures of the hand, wrist, forearm and elbow. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the hand surgeon has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
  • Female doctor examining patient with elbow pain
    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important for you to feel comfortable with your hand surgeon’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Be sure to ask the hand surgeon about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender. Because gender matters in some types of healthcare, doctors are becoming more specialized in caring for women and men differently. And some hospitals have specialized treatment centers and clinics that focus on gender-specific care.
  • Surgeons washing hands
    5. Research Hospital Quality
    Your surgeon’s hospital is your hospital. For this reason, consider the quality of care at the hospital or ambulatory surgical center where the hand surgeon can treat patients. Hospital quality matters to you because patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Additionally, consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. If your condition requires frequent follow-up and rehabilitation visits, you may need a convenient location.
  • Doctor greeting male patient
    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a hand surgeon with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the hand surgeon, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Find a hand surgeon who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
  • Computer-key-showing-the-word-Feedback
    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
  • Health Insurance typed on paper in palm of hand
    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a hand surgeon who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a hand surgeon from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing a Hand Surgeon

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2017 May 21
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.