We all use “Google” to check out plumbers and contractors/repairmen and Avvo to check out lawyers and Yelp to check out restaurants…but what about checking out our doctors? We can all accept a bad restaurant meal or less than professional plumber…at least once. We should not accept a treating physician who has had her license revoked for providing poor medical care.
We see people make bad decisions in selecting their treating doctors all the time. Sometimes you have no choice, like when a doctor is assigned to you when you are hospitalized for an emergency. But, if you do have time to do the research, here are some steps you should take:
1. In Virginia (and all other states have a similar agency) check out the Virginia Department of Health Professions site. You can find out where your doctor was educated (in the United States or at the Carribean School of Medicine and Taxidermy). You can find out if they are Board Certified in their specialty (a recognition of competence). Finally, you can determine if there have been any actions taken against his/her license to practice medicine by the state licensing agency. In Virginia, all doctors are also asked to report whether they have been successfully sued before and many (although not all) will disclose such court cases.
2. You can never go wrong with a “Google Search.” You might just find out that your doctor is a “snake handler” in his spare time and has written extensively about Martians living on earth.
3. Healthgrades will provide further confirmation on your doctor’s education but will add what his/her patients think of their skills and bedside manner.
4. Many Courts in Virginia are online and you may be able to search for the open and closed civil files to see if the doctor has been or is currently being sued. Keep in mind that just because a doctor has been sued one or more times does not necessarily mean he or she is a bad doctor, but it is another piece of information to use in determining who to trust with your health and maybe your life. Search the filed civil cases docket for the locality where your doctor practices.
5. Next, ask your friends and neighbors. Ask your family doctor if he would send his wife, mother, or daughter to the particular surgeon. You might be amazed at the responses you will receive.
My Advice: Be an informed consumer. It might just save your life.