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How do you know you have a good doctor?

When it comes to choosing a doctor, people here in Indiana and across the nation may use a variety of methods. They may see the doctor their parents saw, or one that was recommended by friend, or they may have chosen one randomly from a list provide by their insurer or health plan. In the case of an emergency room visit, they may have had little to do with the choosing.

Patients are often urged to take an active role in their healthcare and research all aspects of their medical care to obtain the greatest value for the money they spend. For the average patient, however, the difficulty is finding out the information they need to make an informed decision.

Two recent reports noted that that task can be a significant challenge. One resource that might be expected to provide relevant information on doctors and their performance is medical licensing boards.

These are the state medical boards that oversee doctors and, when necessary, discipline those who fail to meet the standards. For a patient, finding this information on a doctor can be difficult and may vary considerably from state to state.

In one study, academic researchers found there was a four-fold variation in reporting by states. One author of the study noted, some states allow doctors to get off easier while others deal with doctors who have engaged in "sexual misconduct, substance abuse, and negligent care" more firmly.

A second study found that the websites where this information may be found are both difficult to navigate and that the information can vary greatly within the sites. Both of these factors can discourage individuals from looking up information and may lead them to miss important information on their doctor's practice history.

Source: consumerreports.com, "Can You Rely on Your State's Medical Board?" Rachel Rabkin Peachman, March 31, 2016

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