How to Research a Doctor
We use professionals of all kinds on a regular basis, from auto mechanics to hairstylists to plumbers.
When we need someone to perform services like that and we don’t already have a trusted professional in mind, most of us will ask our friends and colleagues for recommendations and/or do research on the internet to find a reputable service provider who will be the best fit for our needs.
When it comes to finding a doctor for ourselves or our family, making the right choice is even more important, and can be even more challenging.
While asking for referrals and doing online research is pretty much standard operating procedure for people looking for a physician, it is crucial that you know what to look for and where you can find that information.
Here are some key things to look for when looking for a doctor, courtesy of Consumer Reports:
- Insurance coverage. Check your insurance to make sure that the physician you are considering is in your network.
- Hospital affiliation. Where a doctor has admitting privileges will determine what hospital you will go to if you need surgery or other services. You will want to do research on that doctor’s hospital(s) to see how that facility compares with other hospitals in your area.
- Board certification. Being certified through the American Board of Medical Specialties means a doctor has earned a medical degree from a qualified medical school, completed three to seven years of accredited residency training, is licensed by a state medical board, and has passed one or more exams administered by a member of the ABMS. You can visit www.certificationmatters.org to see whether a physician is board certified in their specialty.
- Malpractice claims and disciplinary actions. Just because a doctor has been sued for malpractice in the past doesn’t mean they are a bad doctor; almost every doctor will face at least one malpractice claim from a patient at some point in their career. But where there’s smoke, there can be fire, and multiple suits on a regular basis or discipline by a state medical board can be red flags about the doctor’s competence or ethics.
- Compatibility. The doctor-patient relationship is a very personal one. It is crucial that you feel comfortable with your physician so you can be open and honest with him or her about your questions and concerns, and it is vital that you feel a sense of trust and confidence in their advice. When first visiting a new doctor, consider whether the doctor listens to you without interrupting, and whether he or she fully answers your questions.
- Office policies. Ask how long it takes to make an appointment for a routine visit (it should be less than a week), whether they offer same-day appointments, and how long patients are kept in the waiting room.
Physician Research Resources
- AMA DoctorFinder
- Castle Connolly
- National Committee for Quality Assurance
- Physician Compare
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