The health journey is not for the faint of heart. It can be a harrowing experience and overwhelm can quickly set in. Your hope is that you can rely on the experience of the doctors who hold your health in their hands, especially if you are facing a serious, complex, or long-term care situation.
The frustration and overwhelm of finding the right doctor can force you to blindly trust providers because time is not on your side. As a result, you may find yourself looking for a quick solution and choosing doctors based on online reviews, the distance from your home, or affiliation with your insurance. But, the unfortunate truth is that it is hard for patients to rate a doctor’s quality of care, and there are times when you really should travel to see an expert.
In this article, we will break down how to find out about a doctor’s reputation and expertise. We will also discuss what information is necessary to properly evaluate a doctor’s career and background.
What Does it Mean For a Doctor to Have a Good Reputation?
When you search for the best doctor, one with a good “reputation,” what are you really looking for? Attributes like good bedside manner and staff friendliness are important, but in the end, patients want to find a doctor who can help them get well. And successful patient outcomes directly correlate with doctors who have deep expertise in a patient’s specific medical condition.
Here at MediFind, we have spent years researching the indicators of high expertise, arriving at four important criteria:
The emphasis here is on the specific condition the doctor has experience in, as this is the best way to determine a doctor’s expertise and quality of care.
Below, we’ve outlined four characteristics any doctor deemed to be an expert in your condition is likely to possess. Use these criteria to assess your doctor’s reputation and expertise in treating your condition.
- Large number of referrals from doctors. This doctor receives many referrals from other doctors for patients with the same condition as yours. That is, other doctors are sending patients like you to this doctor for medical care.
- Treats a large volume of patients with your condition. If the doctor sees lots of patients with your specific health condition, this is one of the markers that they have a high level of expertise in this condition.
- Authoring publications and speaking at events. If a doctor publishes papers about your specific condition and speaks publicly about it as well, this is a sign that the physician focuses their time on studying the condition and improving patient outcomes.
- Connections with other experts. Doctors who are closely connected with other experts are more aware of the latest advances related to your condition. Beyond publishing articles that display a doctor’s expertise on a particular treatment method, industry connections can signal expertise in more than one treatment option.
Note that each criterion is important, but individually, they may not alone connote deep expertise.
A specialist might see a lot of patients with the same condition simply because they are a specialist. Their volume of patients may have nothing to do with their level of expertise treating patients who have a specific condition.
Your doctor may also refer you to an expert for your condition, but their choice of doctor could be based on factors other than expertise, such as convenience or familiarity.
A doctor may publish articles on a condition because they have an interest in that condition, but their expertise may be limited to a singular treatment. Ideally, you want a doctor who is open to many different treatment approaches and paradigms.
Also, a doctor could be an expert in one condition, but not in another. Typically, patients see generalists first to get a diagnosis and then they get a second opinion from a specialist, which is especially critical if you are dealing with a complex, serious, or rare condition.
Combining the four criteria together provides a holistic perspective, making it possible to determine a physician’s level of expertise. It’s important to consider all four criteria and resist the temptation of looking at any one in isolation. MediFind uses the combination of these factors to evaluate the expertise of over 2.5 million doctors around the world for thousands of specific health conditions.
Can I research this information myself?
While you can research some of this information yourself, it will be laborious without sophisticated data-mining techniques. Just scraping through the two million articles published yearly would be a prohibitively tedious and time-consuming process.
To find articles on your health condition, you can rummage through PubMed and filter out relevant articles. However, reading through them and uncovering the findings can be difficult if you do not have medical training. It’s the same process for finding articles published by any given doctor you may be researching. Unfortunately, the process becomes even more complex because many doctors have the same or similar names, so you have to determine whether the doctor you are researching actually authored the publication in question.
You can also find information on how many patients doctors treat with a particular condition by combing through this data. Note that it is based on a medical coding structure designed for insurance reimbursement. You would need to know how to download and interpret it to discover relevant findings.
To find condition-specific clinical trials, deep-dive into ClinicalTrials.gov, a resource provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. To make your research simple and effective, consult our Clinical Trial Finder which identifies all active and ongoing clinical trials, searchable by condition. Use this tool to discover new clinical trial opportunities to discuss with your physician.
All told, conducting this research yourself is likely to be frustrating and time-consuming. That’s one of the reasons we built MediFind to help.
Reviewing Disciplinary Activity
What if you want to dig deeper into a doctor’s reputation, beyond their expertise? It’s rare that a doctor has a disciplinary record, is convicted of a crime, suspended, or disciplined for medical negligence, but it happens. If you want to check that your doctor is free of disciplinary activity, here are some tips.
To review a doctor’s record, visit your state medical board’s website, or contact them directly. Each state has its own procedure for accessing a doctor’s record. To start the process, check the Federation of State Medical Boards’ website (Physician Data Center) to identify the states in which the physician obtained a medical license. Here is a list of the state medical boards along with contact information. If a physician practiced in several states, get information on the doctor from each state in which they were licensed.
Physicians receive board certification in specific specialties which means they underwent specialized training and passed an exam to demonstrate proficiency. If you are seeing a specialist, you can ensure the doctor has the right qualifications by visiting The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) website. Search by doctor name, location, and specialty. Note that a doctor may be board-certified in one discipline, but practicing in another. Ensure the practice matches the certification.
Below are a few other medical boards that certify doctors:
- The American Board of Physician Specialties
- The American Board of Plastic Surgery
- American Osteopathic Association
The American Medical Association’s Doctor Finder also lists physician information such as board certifications and medical training.
How to Find a Reputable Doctor (Quickly)
Even if a doctor is kind, highly ethical, and eager to help, if they do not have the proper experience treating patients like you, you may not get the best possible treatment and outcomes you are hoping for.
One example that is near and dear to our heart involves MediFind’s CEO Patrick Howie and the battle his brother faced with a semi-rare cancer. The family thought his brother was receiving the best quality of care, but they soon realized the doctor they thought was an expert in this cancer was not as qualified as other doctors who were aggressively studying and researching this condition. Finding a more qualified doctor added two years to his brother’s life. Had Patrick had access to a tool like MediFind at the time, his brother may have lived even longer.
Every second is critical, especially if you are dealing with a rare or complex condition. In his brother’s honor and to prevent health consumers like you from ever having to face what he did, Patrick and his team created MediFind, a sophisticated tool that removes the guesswork out of finding the best doctors. The cutting-edge software uses sophisticated data-mining techniques and proprietary research methods to sort through extensive medical data, and simplify it for the health consumer.
When you perform a search in MediFind for a specific condition, the platform finds the best doctors and evaluates them according to the criteria we outlined in this article. MediFind also pulls in current medical data to supply you with the latest research and clinical trials for your condition, so you have the best information for your health condition at your fingertips.
You won’t find this information in online reviews, or on doctor finder and medical board websites. Yet, it’s critical to know if you want to receive the highest quality healthcare.
If you are not yet sure about your condition, MediFind created a Symptom Checker to help you narrow down a condition so you can find the best doctors. Looking for a second opinion? If so, consult our Second Opinion Finder to find doctors who can give you a quality second opinion.
We Want the Best Possible Health Outcomes for You
Our wish for you is that you have the best chances at experiencing the most positive health outcomes, while relieving the stress that so often accompanies serious or complex health issues. We are on your side, empowering you with research that connects you to the highest quality care as quickly as possible. Be well!