Deciding on the right doctor or facility to visit for treatment can be one of the most important decisions you could make for yourself and your family. We’ve seen firsthand the effects of patients receiving inadequate medical treatment from professionals they trusted.
While a friend’s referral or a quick Google search alone are common ways to find care today, there are many reliable sources available to the public to provide checks on the background of a healthcare provider or medical center. These resources can provide crucial information for determining whether your choice will meet your standards for health and safety. Here are some ways you could vet medical options before going in person:
- Ask a friend or someone you know who has sought care from the physician or facility about their experience.
- Do some internet Research:
The Office of Insurance Regulation offers a search for whether past malpractice claims were paid on behalf of a doctor or hospital. It will tell you the date of the claim, the basic facts or allegations involved in the claim, whether a settlement was reached, or judgement was entered, and the amount that was actually paid.
The Florida Department of Health provides this searchable database of all physicians, chiropractors, and licensed healthcare professionals in the State of Florida. Here you can find license verification and status, as well as a history of arrests and disciplinary actions by the State against his or her license, including links to documents stating allegations of misconduct and outcomes. It provides a summary of the person’s education and training, tells you if they are board certified, whether the person is insured for malpractice, whether settlements over $100,000 have been paid out in negligence suits, where the person is employed, at what hospitals they have privileges, a list of any academic teaching appointments, professional and other awards, scholarly publications, and other additional information.
You can also search your local clerk of court’s website in the county where any given physician practices to find any pending and past lawsuits. In some circuits, you can search the clerk’s database using a name and research the physician, hospital, nursing home or other healthcare provider’s local history for malpractice claims. In some counties, including Pinellas County, you can actually view court documents online in order to get an understanding of the allegations involved in past and pending malpractice cases against a health professional.
The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration website has this online search of licensed healthcare facilities in Florida including hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory surgical centers, rehabilitation centers, home health care providers, ALFs, and many others. It will tell you about AHCA investigations and results, services provided, ownership, accreditation, license status, and many other details about the facility. It will give you links to AHCA reports including a statement of complaints.
- Ask other healthcare providers who they would recommend and who they would stay away from.
- Ask if the doctor is Board Certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties in the area of your treatment (i.e. oncology, cardiology, obstetrics).
- Contact the Florida Board of Medicine and inquire about the physician.
- Check the AMA’s Doctorfinder service.
- Use Google to find review sites and read the patient comments (healthgrades.com, LifeScript.com, RateMDs.com, DoctorScorecard.com).
- Contact your health insurance provider to see if the physician is on your plan. If not, you can ask whether he or she ever applied but was denied network status.