How to check out your doctor (before you become the victim of their mistakes)

You trust your primary care physician (PCP) completely. After all, you’ve been their patient for years. You’re not so trusting, however, when it comes to the specialist they’re sending you to next.

Whether you’re just wary about unfamiliar doctors or you’ve had a bad experience in the past, it pays to check out a doctor’s background as much as you can — before you trust your health to their care. Here are some of the best ways to do it:

  • Go to the Federation of State Medical Board’s website. Their physician data center can allow you to look at a doctor’s educational background and certifications. You can also learn more about where they are licensed to practice and whether there have been any formal actions taken against their license.
  • Go to Google and do a search. Try adding terms like “malpractice” or “lawsuit” into your searches. That may turn up information about complaints against the doctor that didn’t result in formal action or claims that ultimately settled out-of-court.
  • Check their online reviews. Everybody has an online presence these days. Websites like Healthgrades and Vitals specialize in giving patients a place to share their experiences with a doctor. While one or two bad reviews shouldn’t scare you off (since nobody can please everyone), you should look for patterns — especially if patients complain that they were treated “like a number,” or the doctor didn’t listen to them.

Despite your best efforts, it’s still possible to end up with a bad doctor. If a specialist makes a mistake that leaves you significantly worse off than before, it may be time to speak to an attorney. Holding a bad doctor accountable for their errors can help protect others from suffering the same poor treatment.

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