I am always surprised that many people neglect to check their doctor's credentials. A doctor should not be chosen merely by a friends' referral or geographic location. More work should go into finding a doctor then, say, finding a landscaper. There was a time when checking up on a doctor was difficult and not doing any homework beforehand was excusable. This is no longer the case. Now a little internet search could reveal that the doctor that you were about to select is actually incompetent.
Three factors need to be researched with respect to a physician:
1) What are his credentials? Is he "board certified" in a particular area, When and where did he attend school, and what has he done recently to supplement his education. Pay particular attention to this point if the physician is older. You want a doctor who is educated on the newest techniques and advances in medicine.
2) Has the doctor been disciplined? In other words, has the state licensing board taken any action against him?
3) Has the doctor been sued for malpractice?
Below are some links to help you learn more about your doctor:
Maryland / DC / Virginia
Maryland Doc Finder- The Maryland Board of Quality Assurance is a state agency which issues licences to physicians and other health care providers. The Board is responsible for investigating complaints against licensees and takes action against the license of those who fail to maintain Maryland's standards of medical care delivery.
District of Columbia, Department of Health- The mission of the Department of Health is to promote and protect the health, safety and quality of life of residents, visitors and those doing business in the District of Columbia.
Virginia, Department of Health Professions- to ensure safe and competent patient care by licensing health professionals, enforcing standards of practice, and providing information to health care practitioners and the public.
National Level -American Medical Association provides links to state disciplinary boards. AMA physician Select provides information on the training and certification of over half a million physicians licensed in the United States.
Health Grades- Health Grades also maintains a searchable database of over half a million physicians. The search will reveal whether a doctor has been sanctioned.
The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB)Licensing Boards report all actions that revoke, suspend, or restrict a license for reasons related to competence or conduct to NPDB. Further, professional societies must report all actions that adversely affect the physician, and hospital administrators must report disciplinary actions that negatively affect a doctors privileges for more than 30 days. In addition, malpractice insurance carriers are required to report all settlements against physicians. This information is available to Plaintiff's and their attorneys in a medical malpractice suit.
The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB)- collects information about licensor and certification actions, criminal convictions, exclusion from federal and state healthcare programs, civil judgements and other adjudicated decisions.