Evaluating a doctor’s credentials can feel like learning a new language. If you are like most patients, you are probably not be well versed in all of the different types of degrees, licenses, specializations and certifications that doctors can earn. This helpful checklist can give you a guide for how to check and evaluate the credentials for any generalist or specialist you want to see.
Understanding Board Certification
When a doctor is “board certified,” it means that he or she has graduated from a residency program that abides by certain educational standards. It also means that the physician has passed a rigorous written examination. The board certification process allows physicians to list “board certified” as a part of their credentials. A board certification can be earned in 24 different specializations, such as orthopedic surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine and others. As such, a doctor can also hold a board certification in more than one area of specialization.
Checking Up on Licensure
Another area you to research when checking credentials is licensure. Typically medical licenses are issued by the state in which the doctor is practicing. So you can check with the state licensing board or the state health department to find out if the doctor you want to see is licensed in your state. You can also verify if the doctor’s medical license is current.
Read What Patients Have to Say
There are a great number of online search engines that can help you research what a doctor’s patients have to say about the level and quality of care provided by a physician. Simply searching on a doctor’s name and city and state will give you a variety of websites you can review to find patient testimonials. Since there is a natural human tendency to trust what peers or even strangers have to say over any official materials the doctor’s office may provide, this can offer great reassurance and insight if you are a new patient searching for a doctor.
National Data Banks
Another helpful resource you can use to check a doctor’s credentials is the national data banks. Insurers, health agencies and state health departments use these two data banks to screen physicians.
National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). This data bank collects information about licensure and malpractice insurance.
Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB). This data bank collects information on licensure, certification, legal action and more.
Talk to Your Insurer
A great way to find out about a physician’s credentials is simply to give your insurance company a call. Insurance companies maintain their own set of standards for admitting a new physician into their insurance network. Insurers also have access to the NPDB and HIPDB data banks. By finding out what your insurer’s admission standards are, you can then select a physician from their list with confidence and know those criteria have already been screened for you.
With these helpful resources, you can gather as much information as you need to feel comfortable with a new doctor.