Choosing the best doctor
When it is time to find a new doctor, you want to choose someone you can trust. How can you find out the truth about your doctor? While many doctors are caring, professional, and competent, some are not. Fortunately, there are ways to check a doctor's credentials and standing. Use the resources below to learn about your doctor before you start working together.
FEDERATION OF STATE MEDICAL BOARDS (FSMB)
The FSMB has a list of state medical board websites --
You can look up your doctor on the state site to see if they are licensed to practice in your state. Not all states provide the same amount of information. Some only share state license and board actions against the doctor. Others include actions taken in other states, medical malpractice, disciplinary actions, awards, and more. If your state doesn't provide this information, you may be able to request it.
Other health care providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants are also licensed by states. Most states have a similar search for all licensed medical providers.
For a more complete picture, you can order a doctor profile from the FSMB --
- Physician disciplinary sanctions
- Education: medical school name, year of graduation, and degree earned
- Medical specialty
- Location information
- Education and training
- Procedures performed
- Conditions treated
- Malpractice claims, sanctions, and board actions
- Languages spoken
The site also collects patient satisfaction surveys from site users.
NCQA RECOGNITION DIRECTORY
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) --
PRESCRIBER CHECKUP AND DOLLARS FOR DOCTORS
These pages are run by ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization. ProPublica produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Using Dollars for Doctors --
SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
While these sites can help you find out about your doctor, they are not foolproof. Most of the information you will find is from lawsuits that have been settled. If any complaints are still in process, you won't see them. Keep in mind that doctors in certain specialties may be more likely to be sued. And not all lawsuits mean that the doctor did something wrong.
Your provider may be a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. There are different sites to check on certification and specialization for these providers.
Use care when reviewing patient satisfaction scores. You are more likely to see telltale trends if a provider has been reviewed by 40 people rather than 4. Read the results closely. Poor scores for this office don't necessarily reflect on the provider, who may be one of many providers in a busy practice.
Federation of State Medical Boards website. The role of state medical boards.
National Committee for Quality Assurance website. NCQA Report cards.
PublicCitizen website. Physician accountability.
Last reviewed on: 9/19/2021
Reviewed by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 03/30/2022.