Whether a condition is severe or minor, you should make sure to choose the doctor or hospital that will be treating the condition carefully. Medical malpractice is not common, but it does happen, and certain health care providers have a much better track record than others. Part of your research should involve an investigation into complaints against an individual or a facility. These likely will be red flags that should encourage you to consider alternatives. Frequent grounds for complaints may include late or improper diagnoses, inappropriate treatments or procedures, and premature discharges from a hospital, among other issues.
A good place to start may be the website of your health insurance provider. You can often find information there about the record of a doctor, as well as their educational background and areas of expertise. You can also consult the National Committee for Quality Assurance and similar ratings organizations. These provide grades for doctors, based on the care that they have provided, although not every doctor will have received an evaluation.
State Medical Boards and Departments of Health Services
Similar to other professional associations, the board of medical licensure in each state keeps records of disciplinary actions against physicians who are licensed in that state. Disciplinary actions may include suspending or revoking a doctor’s license. You can consult the American Medical Association website to find the contact information for the board of medical licensure in your state. The Federation of State Medical Boards also offers a database that contains records of disciplinary actions against physicians throughout the country. This database is called Docinfo and can be accessed by the general public for a minimal fee.
The Department of Health Services in your state can be a useful resource when it comes to choosing a hospital, rather than a specific doctor. It will contain records of formal complaints that have been made against a hospital, such as allegations of unsanitary conditions or lapses in patient monitoring. These issues can make a huge difference in a patient’s recovery.
Some patients will want to find out whether a doctor whom they are considering has been sued for medical malpractice. You may be able to access court records online, and these should contain any filings against the doctor. Otherwise, you can contact the court clerk’s office in your area and ask how to access the records. You may need to visit the courthouse in person to find a record of a specific case. Sometimes a settlement agreement in a medical malpractice case and other details of the litigation remain confidential. Even if you cannot explore the full record, however, you will be able to find out whether a certain doctor has ever been sued.
Just because a doctor was sued does not mean that they did anything wrong. Many patients will file lawsuits against medical professionals because they are disappointed with the results of a treatment or procedure, or because the doctor said or did something that offended them. These cases have no legitimate basis and are usually dismissed swiftly by courts, but they remain in the court records. You should read any filings with a skeptical eye, aware that the allegations may be exaggerated or completely fabricated.