5 questions to ask when selecting a doctor
Whether you’re moving and need to find a primary care physician or pediatrician near your new home, have a new insurance plan that your old physician doesn’t accept or need to find a specialist or surgeon, there are some basic questions you should ask before choosing which physician to work with.
- What are the doctor’s credentials?
The credentials you should check include the physician’s education, postgraduate training, medical specialties, board certifications, publications and research, licensing issues, honors and awards. There are a variety of different places you can find this type of information, including the American Medical Association’s online DoctorFinder, hospital websites, online medical journal databases like Pub Med and physician’s practice websites.
- Is the doctor board certified?
Check that the physician you’re considering is board certified in the specialty or subspecialty area you need, for example gerontology, gynecology or internal medicine. To receive board certification, physicians must successfully complete a rigorous training and evaluation process. Certification is granted to physicians by American Board of Medical Specialties-recognized boards, which cover 150 medical specialties and sub-specialties.
Board certification is voluntary and is not the same as the mandatory state licensing process. All U.S. physicians are required to have a medical license in the state where they practice, but the license does not mean the doctor is board certified to practice in a medical specialty.
- Have there been any disciplinary actions or malpractice suits brought against the doctor?
State medical boards are responsible for taking disciplinary actions when a doctor engages in unprofessional conduct, such as physical abuse of a patient, not recognizing or acting on common symptoms, inadequate record keeping or conviction of a felony. Most medical boards also collect information regarding malpractice actions. You can contact the medical board in the state where the doctor practices to find out if the physician has received any disciplinary actions or if any malpractice actions have been recorded against the doctor.
- How often does the doctor perform the procedure I need?
Studies show that the more often a surgeon performs a procedure, the better the outcomes. If you need surgery or another medical procedure, ask how many times the doctor performs that specific procedure each year. Also ask for information about patient outcomes, such as mortality rates, complication rates, recovery time, quality of life, or other outcomes specific to your procedure.
- Is the doctor recognized as one of the leading specialists in his or her field?
One way to determine whether your physician is a leader in the field is to find out whether he or she has done cutting-edge research related to condition for which you’re seeking treatment. Ask if the doctor has presented new knowledge, techniques or technologies at medical meetings and is skilled and experienced in the most effective and advanced techniques and technologies.
Learning as much as you can about a new physician before becoming a patient can help ensure a better fit and that you’re working with an experienced expert. A personal health advisor can provide objective information on physicians’ qualifications and experience to help you choose a physician who can help you reach your health goals.