1. Health

How to Research a Doctor's Credentials - Part II

Completing Your Background Check

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Updated September 23, 2013

• Does this doctor have any stains on his or her record?
Problems might be anything from a bad attitude, to an unclean office, to malpractice. Problems for others may become problems for you.

To ferret out medical malpractice-related problems, you'll be doing some general searches as described in How to Find a Doctor's Medical Malpractice Track Record.

To find general commentary about a doctor's practice, you might turn to some of the online doctors' ratings sites. However, please pay close attention to the cautions offered in that article about using the information in those sites.

• Has this doctor published any medical research on your diagnosis or medical problem?
If the doctor is involved in medical research, then their involvement in that research is important to you. (Not all doctors participate in medical research, but if they are affiliated with academic or university medical centers, there is a good chance her or she is.)

On the one hand, it means they are learning more about your problem, ways to diagnose or treat it, and may be considered experts in the field.

On the other hand, it may mean they are being paid by drug or other medical manufacturing companies and their recommendations to you might (or might not) be skewed. Conflicts of interest have become a major problem, revealing themselves in recommendations being made to patients that aren't necessarily in the best interests of the patient. These conflicts may mean you will be prescribed a drug you don't really need, or they may mean you are pushed into a clinical trial that is more for the benefit of the doctor than for you.

To learn about possible involvement in medical research, just do a general search engine search (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) with the doctor's name, and the word "publication" or "research." If you do find the doctor has been involved in research, then you'll want to look to see whether he or she is being paid by one of those manufacturers to do that research.

Doing good background research on a doctor is a good way to gain confidence in your choice before you ever see that doctor. When coupled with general advice about choosing the right doctor for you, you have a far better chance of being satisfied with the relationship.

• What about the doctor's personality and attitudes?
Any doctor you see with whom you will have a long-term relationship, such as any primary care doctor (internist, OB-GYN and others), or even a cardiologist, endocrinologist, allergist or other specialty, should include a review of that doctor's personality and attitudes.

Why is that assessment important? Choosing a doctor who you will have to visit on regular occasions over a number of years means it's important you get along with each other. Choosing one of these doctors is similar to choosing a spouse. With some of them you may even need to be more intimate than you are with your partner.

A doctor with an arrogant or otherwise difficult personality won't help you nearly so much as one with a more pleasant personality. A doctor with a different belief system - cultural or religious - may make it difficult to get the care you need or want.

There are two ways to get information about a doctor's personality and attitudes:

  • Word of mouth: Talking to friends is one way to get a general assessment of a doctor, with two caveats: One, that a "nice" doctor is not necessarily competent. And second, that a "competent" doctor isn't always the most pleasant. Draw the line on what you are willing to put up with based on how difficult it is to find another doctor who practices the same specialty or offers the same services.

  • Social media: With the rise in the numbers of doctors who either use Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites, it's easier than ever to use social media to determine the personality and attitudes of a doctor before you ever meet him or her.

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