We all will need a doctor at some point in our lives. When looking for a good doctor, many people search online sites such as HealthGrades or “Best Doctors” lists in many city or regional magazines. However, many of these online sites are just private companies looking for profit and are not required to post a doctor’s past disciplinary records and sanctions. It’s also difficult to know who wrote the reviews and what their potential relationship with the physician may be.
It’s very difficult in this country for consumers to find a doctor’s disciplinary record and its causes. Robert Oshel, former associate director at the National Practitioner Data Bank, says “You can find out more about the safety record of your toaster and whether or not it’s going to catch on fire than you can find about your physicians.” The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), part of the Department of Health and Human Services is a federal database that has collected disciplinary actions and medical malpractice payouts since 1990. Unfortunately, the NPDB is not open to the public. This information should be shared freely and this needs to be changed.
As a Phoenix medical malpractice attorney, it’s well known in the medical malpractice industry that medical malpractice mistakes kill about 400,000 people per year. That’s the equivalent of two or three 747 planes crashing every day. We all know if that happened, all air traffic would be grounded. Yet, it continues to happen every day in doctor’s offices and hospitals across the country. It’s so important to advocate for your loved ones and pay close attention when under any medical care. So here are some smart ways to choose a good doctor to help prevent being a victim of medical malpractice:
1. Look for Red Flags
The best place to start your research regarding a doctor’s disciplinary history is docinfo.org, a site run by the Federation of State Medical Boards, an organization representing state agencies that license and discipline doctors. If you’re unclear on the information the site gives you regarding any actions against a doctor, call your state medical board.
2. Look for Big Pharma
The government now collects information on how much money doctors get from drug and medical device companies. These payments can be legit, but a doctor who receives large payments may be heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, which we all know is huge judging solely by the amount of commercials we all see on television. This could potentially lead to doctor’s prescribing medications that are not needed or just plain wrong. Check out projects.propublica.org/docdollars/ which posts this type of payment information.
3. Look for Hospital Affiliation
The doctor you choose can determine which hospital you go for treatment. Not all hospitals are created equal and it’s important to choose one that has a good reputation in the community.
4. Look for Compatibility
Does the doc listen without interrupting? Are your questions being fully answered? Does he or she explain your diagnosis and treatment, and specify a date for a follow-up appointment? Is the office staff friendly, efficient, and respectful?
Because a small percentage of doctors commit the majority of medical malpractice in this country, the odds are good that your doctor isn’t a danger to you or a loved one. But it’s important to know for sure.
Sources: National Practitioner Data Bank, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Consumer Reports