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How To Check A Doctor's Credentials

Jul 15, 2008
Decisions in respect to our health are some of the biggest decisions that we will ever make. It is prudent therefore, whenever dealing with a doctor or some other medical practitioner to first do a background check on his her competency and experience. The problem of course, is that very few people actually know where to start looking for this information. This article deals with how one can check their doctors credentials.

Information pertaining to your doctor's qualifications, experience and training can be obtained from any of the following places - the doctor's office itself, a local hospital, any HMO of which the doctor is a member, or even a local medical society to which the doctor belongs. There are several state licensing boards that will issue information regarding certain disciplinary actions, but acquiring this sort of information may be a laborious process. In addition to this, there are numerous online organizations that also provide information and contain lists of the various medical licensing board websites.

The American Medical Association (AMA) provides information on the certification and training of around 680,000 physicians currently practicing in the United States. However, this board does not issue information in respect to disciplinary actions. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) can also be used to verify whether or not a doctor is really certified by any one of the 24 recognized boards in the country. This site is generally used for checking the certification status of a physician whose location is unknown.

Most of the states have different websites with searchable databases, but the amount of information given out varies from state to state. Regarding disciplinary actions, some sites provide summaries, others provide extensive documentation, while others only mention if a disciplinary action has been taken or not. A few boards do provide information whether or not criminal convictions and malpractice suits are on record.

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General has two separate databanks that gathers information about various healthcare practitioners and physicians. This information however, cannot be accessed by the general public as it is only available to credentialing organizations, government agencies and other parties.

- The National Practitioner Data Bank or the NPDB was set-up to obstruct problematic physicians. It is mandatory for licensing boards to report any adverse action that could suspend, revoke or restrict a license for reasons related to a physician's incompetence or misconduct.

- The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or the HIPDB was instigated to combat abuse and fraud in healthcare and healthcare insurance. It gathers all sort of information regarding criminal conviction, certification and licensure action and civil judgments, exclusions from state and federal healthcare programs and adjudicated decisions. This information however, is only available to federal, state and other health plan agencies.

A doctor's credentials and background check can be done in a variety of ways, depending on what the patient is looking for. For instance, if you are currently consulting a doctor and want to find out whether or not any disciplinary action has been issued against him, then the Federation of State Medical Boards has more disciplinary reports than any other medical board in the United States at present. Checking a doctor's credentials is absolutely necessary prior to asking for any health related advice.
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