By: Aaron Diamant
ATLANTA —Most people spend more time researching the mechanics who work on their cars and the contractors who work on their homes than their own doctors. However, there are resources where patients can background doctors, the same ones Channel 2 Action News uses in our investigations.
“We’d love to see a day when physicians’ information is out there just like restaurant information on Yelp or product information on Amazon,” Georgia Watch’s Beth Stephenson told investigative reporter Aaron Diamant.
Stephenson, and her fellow consumer advocates at Georgia Watch, are working to raise awareness about resources that are available for patients to find important information about their doctors before making an appointment.
“That’s why this information is out there, to help consumers understand where they can get the highest quality, lowest risk care,” Stephenson said.
The best place to start: The Georgia Composite Medical Board’s website. It’s a gold mine. Under the consumer resources tab, you can look up any licensed provider in the state. You can see their specialty, where they went to school, board certifications, the hospitals where they have privileges, whether the state has ever disciplined them, and for what. There is also a record of any felony convictions and malpractice judgements.
“When you’re putting your health and your body into somebody else’s hands, you can’t just go in with blind trust anymore,” said attorney Susan Witt. “You really have to be doing your homework.”
Witt, who specializes in medical malpractice cases, offered that important advice. However, since the Medical Board does not publicize complaints filed against doctors, only board actions, here are some other resources.
At healthgrades.com, you can see how patients rate individual doctors in many patient care categories.
Medicare.gov’s physician compare lets patients see which doctors participate in specific quality activities.
“For some reason, consumers don’t tend to question doctors,” Witt said. “Just because somebody has a degree behind their name, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable or that you shouldn’t be asking the questions.”
Witt says doctors without hospital privileges is another big flag. She warns patients no amount of research can eliminate all risk. Witt and others recommend bringing a friend or loved one to chaperone exams. And ask lots of questions. They say if doctors give you any pushback, find another doctor.
Here are few links to quality information on physicians:
Georgia Composite Medical Board: http://medicalboard.georgia.gov/
Medicare.gov – physician compare
Pro Publica’s Surgeon Scorecard
Here are some links to hospital safety information and ratings:
Medicare.gov – hospital compare
National Patient Safety Foundation links