If you’ve recently moved to a new region, or you just want to switch doctors, you can start using online databases to find doctors. Internet databases make the process of finding the right doctor easier. Many such databases now exist, and many are free to use.
Reliable doctor databases should tell you mostly everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision, including a given doctor’s;
- educational background, training and place of residency
- years of experience
- insurance coverage
Where do I start my search for a new doctor?
You might start your search for a doctor by looking at a basic database which supplies the items listed above, such as the one maintained by the American Medical Association.
You could also try the WebMD Physician Directory. The information WebMD’s directory provides is updated twice every year, and includes directions to the offices of each physician it lists. If you’re on Medicare, you’ll find a list of Medicare-enrolled doctors through the government-run website called Physician Compare. On this site you can search for doctors according to a number of different criteria. You may search, for instance, for a doctor by gender, or for doctors who speak languages in addition to English.
Once you have put together a short list of doctors who are available to you, you’ll probably want to delve deeper and examine quality of care issues for each name on your list. Vitals.com is one website that can help you with this task. Its review system asks volunteer reviewers to rate doctors on intriguing criteria, such as: How accurate are a doctor’s diagnoses? How well does she follow up? How easy is it to make an appointment with him? How’s her bedside manner? The descriptions of doctor experiences which patients provide are often very detailed here.
Online Databases to Find Doctors
The Rate MDs website makes for compelling browsing as well. For one thing, it includes regional “top ten lists”: for example, the top ten best dentists – as reviewed by patients – near Wichita, Kansas. And its store of patient reviews is enormous, among the most extensive of any doctor database. Users can even add their own photos of doctors to the site.
It’s also important to search the Internet for malpractice databases – that is, databases that compile lists of malpractice complaints formally lodged against doctors. For instance, Health Grades is a public database informing site visitors of doctors’ histories of malpractice claims, including court rulings and settlement facts and figures.
And the federal government runs a similar database called the National Practitioner Data Bank. However, the NPDB, which comprehensively tracks malpractice actions taken against doctors, has been the subject of controversy.
In fact, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), kept this database shut down for a time, a move supported by the American Medical Association. And even when the NPDB went online again in late 2011, it did not provide the names of doctors with histories of malpractice lawsuits. Rather, it simply referred to those doctors by identification numbers. Many public health advocates and journalists, however, have fought for full disclosure on this website regarding those accused of malpractice. Whichever way this battle ultimately gets resolved, you should look at this database or similar databases to see what information you can glean.
A few words of warning are in order. Beware of medical databases which aggressively try to sell you medical products or insurance plans, and databases which doctors must pay to get listed on. And remember that patient reviews, like all reviews, are highly subjective. Different people bring to their doctors different expectations. Further, in most cases there’s no way to confirm that an online reviewer who claims to have been a patient of a particular doctor actually was a patient of that doctor.
In short, using databases to find doctors is a great start. Try reading at least several reviews, as together they should provide an overall impression of a certain doctor. On the other hand, don’t place too much trust in any single review.