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Wondering About Your Doctor?

Ohio lawyers give tips about researching a doctor

How do you know whether your doctor is right for you? Most people like to feel some rapport with their physicians. The office or clinic should be convenient and accessible. The doctor or nurse should return your phone calls. These are all basics - but they are also things you cannot possibly know until you have met with the doctor a few times. These are things that you cannot determine in advance of your first visit.

However, you can still learn a lot about your doctor before you ever set foot in his or her office. Most clinics have websites that list doctor and staff qualifications, experience, areas of focus and board certifications. In addition, there are other websites that offer reviews from current or former patients, describe state medical board actions and report about medical malpractice lawsuits against individual providers.

These websites include private, commercial databases as well as state-operated websites connected to Ohio's medical licensing board. Both can give you information that will help you decide whether an individual physician is right for you.

The State Medical Board of Ohio provides oversight of physicians within the state. It grants licenses to doctors who have completed prescribed training, have passed licensing exams and criminal background checks, and are English-proficient. The board also takes action against doctors who break the rules governing licensure. The board's website allows consumers to determine if a physician has been suspended or put on probation or had his or her license revoked. It does not provide reviews by patients or rankings.

Behavior that could lead to disciplinary action by the State Medical Board includes:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse and physical or mental illness that impairs a doctor's ability to practice medicine
  • Failure to meet minimum standards of care
  • Inappropriate prescribing of drugs
  • Inappropriate sexual contact
  • Felony conviction
  • Billing fraud or other types of deception
  • Not meeting continuing education requirements

The Ohio State Medical Board has been ranked among the top 10 state boards in the United States for the past 15 years. It is made up of doctors and laypeople.

Additional sources of information about doctors and other health care providers include:

  • RateMDs.com provides consumer reviews of doctors in all 50 states.
  • Healthgrades.com provides tabulated survey responses, but does not reproduce individual patient comments.
  • Vitals.com provides tabulated survey responses and individual patient comments.
  • Administrators in Medicine collects doctor information from all 50 state medical boards. It provides information about disciplinary actions and license expiration dates, but no patient comments or ratings.

In addition to researching doctors, you can find out about hospitals from U.S. News & World Report's U.S. News Best Hospitals 2013-14.

If you decide to interview doctors personally before making a decision, here are some questions to ask:

  • Which hospital(s) do you use?
  • Where do you do routine X-rays and blood tests - in-office or at an outside lab?
  • What is the average wait time for an appointment?
  • Who covers for you when you are away?
  • Do you refer patients to specialists or do you provide most care yourself?
  • Does your office submit insurance claims, or must patients pay and then file for reimbursement from the insurance company?

Asking questions and doing your research will allow you to make an informed decision about your choice of medical providers. It can improve your chances of having not only a doctor who is well-qualified, but also someone with whom you will feel comfortable.