Whether you just received a scary diagnosis or moved to a new town, consult a variety of sources to find a trustworthy doctor. Here are seven resources to aid your search.
1. Board certification search tool
Among the first steps for evaluating quality is to check to see whether a physician is board certified, says the American Board of Medical Specialties, which sets standards in more than 145 specialties.
Physicians who are board certified have gone beyond legal licensing requirements to meet national standards for education, knowledge, experience and skills. To see whether your doctor is board certified, log onto CertificationMatters.org, which lets you search by a doctor's name, specialty or location.
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2. Medical and scientific advisory boards
Looking for physicians at the top of their fields? Check out doctors on medical and scientific advisory boards. If you can't go to those physicians, learn about doctors who have trained under them.
3. Patient advocacy groups
Unless you have a rare condition, you probably don't need to travel across the country to find a qualified physician. Find local patient support and advocacy groups online for your condition and ask about doctors in your area. Pay attention when the same name is mentioned more than once.
4. Health insurance companies
Some health insurance companies give special designations to physicians who meet certain standards. Doctors earn the designation by meeting efficiency and clinical standards. Doctors with the designation have a blue star by their names in the insurer's "find a doctor" online listings.
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5. State medical board
Medical malpractice judgments and disciplinary actions taken against physicians are public information. Check with your state's medical board to learn how to access the information. Depending on the state, some of the information may be available online.
6. Your primary care doctor
Don't leave your primary care doctor in the dark when you need a specialist. Primary care doctors know the reputations of other physicians, and they should know their patients well enough to steer them in the right direction.
7. Online rating services
A slew of online services now feature patient ratings of physicians. These include HealthGrades, RateMDs.com, Angie's List and others. They may be useful in helping you make a decision, but put less emphasis on these services than information obtained through patient groups, medical advisory boards and referrals from other physicians.
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