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Helping Texans Compare & Understand Their Health Care Options

Picking a Doctor

When looking for a family doctor or specialist, keep in mind that some doctors won’t accept new patients.  The provider directory should identify the ones not taking new patients.  Have a couple of backup choices in case your first choice isn’t available.  Also remember to think about how far away the doctor’s location is from you.

You can use the following online resources to help you pick a doctor.

Step 1: Make a List

Check your provider directory.  If you have health coverage, make sure any doctor or hospital you see is in your provider directory.  Your health plan may have a provider directory online, which might have some basic quality information for comparing providers.

Talk to your family, friends, and coworkers.  Get doctor recommendations from people you know and trust.

Doctor rating sites.  There are websites that collect and analyze provider data.  Many of the websites let you search doctors by name, specialty, and location.  Some will let you look up the conditions a doctor treats, their education, training, disciplinary actions against them, a list of hospitals they work with, and patient ratings.  When considering patient ratings, keep in mind that anyone can fill them out online.  High ratings don’t always mean the doctor gives quality care, and poor ratings may not always be accurate.

Step 2: Narrow Your List

Next, narrow your list to a few choices.  You can use the Clinician Recognition Directory and Medical Association websites to evaluate the quality of your choices.

NCQA Clinician Recognition Directory
Description: The National Committee for Quality Assurance is an accrediting organization that gives awards to high-quality providers.  The Clinician Recognition Directory lets you find doctors who have awards for specific programs such as diabetes, heart care, and others.

Medical Associations such as: American Medical Association, American Board of Medical Specialties, and Texas Medical Association
Description: Medical associations are voluntary organizations that doctors can join.  Members of one or more medical associations must hold themselves to a certain quality standard and ethical code.  As a consumer, you don’t need to work only with doctors who are part of medical associations, but it might help you compare your options.

You can use these medical association websites in one of two ways.  One way is to search doctors by name and find out if they belong to any or all of these associations.  Another way is to search by specialty; this can give you a list of potential doctors in your area.  Each website has member profiles that give information such as the doctor’s education, training, and certifications.  Sometimes you’ll also find a list of hospitals and health plans they work with.

Step 3: Check Up On Your Doctor

Last, check the history of the doctors remaining on your list.  The following websites can help you learn more about the doctors you’re considering, including their medical license status, whether they’ve ever been disciplined or sued, and their financial relationships.

Texas Medical Board: Look up a License
Description: The Texas Medical Board website lets you confirm a doctor’s medical license and specialty certification.  You can also find the doctor’s basic information, education, training, and a list of hospitals they work with.  The doctor’s profile may list malpractice suits, disciplinary actions, and criminal history.

Open Payments Data
Description: Sometimes doctors have financial relationships with companies such as medical device or drug companies.  These companies may give doctors money for things such as research, consulting, speaking fees, meals, travel, or gifts.  If you are concerned about these influences on your doctor, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services maintains the Open Payments Data website, which lets you see payments doctors have recently accepted.  You can find any payments, who made them, the amounts, and types.  Read the Nature of Payments page to understand the definition and context of each payment type.

Next Section: Picking a Hospital

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Last updated: 06/06/2017