5 Things I Hate About Pittsburgh Varicose Vein Centers

5 Things I Hate About Pittsburgh Varicose Vein Centers

The Truth about Pittsburgh Vein Centers from an Insider

Happel Laser and Vein Center written on a clipboardThis expose is written from an insider, a doctor who actually runs a Pittsburgh vein center. The Happel Laser and Vein Center.

This article covers the things that you must know about but are never told about when looking for a vein center.

It’s about the lack of transparency that allows vein centers to take advantage of you.

Do you know what’s really sad?

The truth is that most people don’t really care about quality.

Most people choose a vein center by the convenience of the location.

The first criteria that most people use for choosing is – Which place is closest to home?

There’s a vein center on almost every corner so it’s not hard to find a place near-by.

People wrongly assume that all vein centers are the same.

That later leads to regret. And later – second opinions.

Another reason that vein centers can get away with substandard care is that patients don’t know any better.

So, they are taken advantage of.

Apathy and ignorance are the reasons that vein centers can get away with it.

Are you getting good or suboptimal care?

IAC accreditation

The IAC accreditation is a seal of approval that you can depend on

What are the necessary credentials and qualifications?

You just don’t know.

Because of these two sad facts, vein centers know that they can get away with a lot – for the sake of making a bigger profit.

That’s right. To maximize profits.

These supermarket vein centers make it all confusing deliberately to make more money.

Here’s a shocking sampling of what is hidden from you:

  • Their vein center has never been inspected like hospitals
  • Totally hidden and unnecessary expensive vein center facility fees
  • Their physician’s true qualifications are concealed
  • Their physicians are not formally trained in venous disease and they switched specialties
  • Lack of continuity of care (different and interchangeable ancillary personnel advising, ordering tests, and treating)
  • Impersonal and interchangeable care from people who don’t know you except as a “case”.
  • Care givers who are not even physicians are actually doing your vein treatments
  • No one person takes personal responsibility for your final results

Why Do Vein Centers Hire Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners?

The reason for having nurse practitioners and assistants practicing at these places is that it’s cheaper for them.

Nurse practitioner and physician assistant’s training is shorter and inferior to a more expensive and all-encompassing doctor’s training.

To top it off, the doctors that these franchises hire only work part-time.

vein franchise signThat’s because the franchise can profit more by limiting the hours of the more expensive provider – the doctor.

At vein franchises and med spas, there are literally hundreds of employees in dozens of locations and a multitude of various assistants.

But how different are vein franchises from med spas?

Not that much.

  • Same philosophy.
  • Same modus operandi.
  • Same underlying motive and quest for profits.

As for the consumer or patient, awareness is the key.

While we don’t recommend becoming paranoid, we do recommend being an active and informed participant in your own healthcare.

You need straight answers to the confusion.

Let’s dive in to some of these issues in more detail.

#1 Confusing Doctor’s Qualifications

Many docs at vein centers call themselves phlebologists.

You must not just accept that at face value.

Instead dig a little deeper.

What are their real credentials?

Vein credentials are all different.

Training varies dramatically.

Doctors true qualifications at many vein centers are purposely hidden and are not above board.


It may surprise consumers to know that venous disease treatment is not a specialty taught in medical school or in residency.

Therefore, vein doctors originally have specialized in:

  • General surgery … or
  • Radiology … or
  • Cardiology … or
  • Gynecology … or
  • Dermatology … or
  • Family practice … or
  • Emergency medicine … or
  • Vascular surgery

It’s important to discover which of these specialties most closely is involved in venous disease to make the best choice.

Read this article on why vascular surgeons make the best vein specialists.

#2 Costs Are Hidden

health insurance sign

Even though you have health insurance, your vein procedure may not be covered

Insurance used to pick up most or all of the cost of varicose vein procedures. Nowadays, that’s rare.

After insurance pays their part, your financial obligation is unclear.

Contrast that to other goods and services.

When you pull up to a gas pump, you know exactly what it’s going to cost to buy a gallon of gas.

Does insurance cover the vein centers recommended treatment at all?

Facility fees are often hidden from you.

It is higher than the cost of the procedure itself!

A hospital system may tack on these added facility fee charges without your knowledge until you get the final bill.

If you have your treatment at an independent vein center, you will not have this extra cost.

#3 Lack of Continuity of Care

medical doctor holding his headNo one doctor takes responsibility for your care or results.

With the team approach, you are insulated from physicians who are only part-time employees anyway.

Just try to get a physician on the phone or see a doctor quickly at a team facility if you are having a problem after a procedure.

When people come to see me for a second opinion, they usually don’t know the names or medical titles of their past caregivers or providers.

Is that what you want?

In many cases, patients can’t even remember the name of the vein center where they had their veins treated.

Anonymous and faceless worker bees forget all about you the minute you walk out the door.

That’s not concierge service as advertised by these places.

#4 Most Vein Centers Have Never Been Inspected


risk on blocks falling on a cartoon characterThe reason that vein center accreditation and inspection was started was to provide a standard of care and minimize risk.

That was meant to prevent the variability of substandard results that occurs where there are no benchmarks.

Only choose vein centers that have been inspected and are accredited to ensure the best chance of a great outcome.

Venous disease is treatable but not curable.

You need results that will last.

Signs of a bad varicose vein center:

  • Not seeing a doctor on consultation day
  • Long wait times for appointments and scheduling
  • Nurses and PAs – not doctors making treatment recommendations and ordering tests.
  • Operating on the fringes by offering free stuff and even paying you to come in for a consultation with enticements like a gift credit card worth $25 or $50
  • Fraud is prevalent (cosmetic spider vein treatments are submitted to your insurance company)
  • Places that treat all four of your saphenous veins routinely
  • Falsified Doppler tests done in-house to increase their volume of procedures
  • Extreme marketing and advertising such as tents at wine tasting, golf events, 5K runs, yoga classes, regattas, and senior health fares.
  • And raffles!

Is this what healthcare has sunk to?

The following is a real post from a Pittsburgh vein center’s Facebook page!

Complete your FREE consultation and bring in this Facebook post 
to receive a $50.00 gift card.
 (This promotion is not valid on current patients receiving treatment. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Gift card is mailed via USPS.)

Congratulations to xxxxx xxxxxxxx. She was the grand prize winner of the $250 Walmart gift card for Patient/Community Appreciation Month. She didn’t mind taking time out of her appointment to get her picture taken! Thank you, xxxxx for your participation and again, congratulations.

#5 Lack of Full Disclosure at the Vein Center

Risk Factor card in hands of Medical DoctorIf the proposed procedures, risks and alternatives are not discussed on your initial consultation visit, you are in the wrong vein center.

Likewise, you are in the wrong place if the following are not discussed:

  1. Risks
  2. Realistic expectations
  3. Chances of recurrence (new varicose veins)
  4. Expected pain during and after treatment
  5. Expected appearance afterwards
  6. Your out-of-pocket cost after insurance pays their part

You must know, understand, or be told:

  • the names, titles, roles, and qualifications of your health care experts who provide your care
  • the extent of your follow-up care
  • the risks, benefits and side effects of all medicines and treatment procedures for your diagnoses
  • innovative or experimental medicines and treatment procedures that are available and the latest FDA approved alternative treatment options
  • your procedure options in order to “give informed consent” before it all begins
  • possible outcomes of your care and treatment
  • the assessment and management of your pain


The bottom lines are these:

  • Avoid the vein bazaar cut-rate outlets where there are interchangeable varicose caregivers.
  • Ask what your total cost will be after insurance pays their part to avoid unpleasant surprises after your procedure is done.
  • Is there an expensive facility fee that can double your cost?
  • Ask about the risks and alternative treatments so you can make an informed decision.
  • Choose a vein center that has been inspected and accredited.
  • Make sure the doctor who will be treating you trained in vascular disease and veins.
  • Don’t accept the title “phlebologist” alone. Research thoroughly the doctor’s true credentials, training and qualifications before your first visit.
  • Not seeing a doctor on that important consultation first day is a sign that the doctors are only working there part-time.
  • Is the doctor ordering your testing or someone else?
  • Will you have a different caregiver (sometimes not even a doctor) doing procedures each time you come trying to catch up on your care?
  • Get a feel for the vein center on the initial consultation day. If you aren’t completely comfortable, don’t hesitate to get a second varicose vein opinion.

Call us at 724-969-0600 to have your veins treatments at an accredited vein center that has been inspected.

About The Author

Dr. John Happel

Dr. John Happel has been in practice as a surgeon since 1986 in the Pittsburgh region. He specializes in vascular surgery and has subspecialized in the treatment of varicose and spider veins since 1999. Dr. Happel is board certified in vascular surgery and recertified in vascular surgery in 2012. He was chosen in 1985 to fulfill the position for the vascular surgical fellowship at the world renowned Mayo Clinic.