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Tips for Checking Up on Your Doctor

When you're preparing for a medical procedure " from a minor in-office treatment to major surgery " how do you know if your doctor is qualified? That's the question that arose recently during a discussion between Dr. Phil and The Doctors, a team of medical experts, including OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, family therapist Dr. Tara Fields, pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears, plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon, and E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork.

The springboard for the discussion is gastric bypass surgery. Dr. Phil notes that a general surgeon might be able to do the procedure, but does that mean he or she is qualified?

Dr. Ordon offers tips for choosing someone to do gastric bypass " or any other type of surgery. He says to make sure your surgeon:

  • Is board certified. 
  • Does a lot of the procedure you are looking to have done. 
  • Is open about his or her experience and shares it with you. 
  • Is willing to show his or her results. 
  • Allows you to talk to other patients.

The Doctors encourage patients to check up on their doctors. One resource available to patients is their state's board of medicine, which provides information on a doctor's training and board certification. A patient can also register with medical societies, which provide information on doctors' records and training.

Most of this type of research can be done online, but Dr. Stork offers a warning. "You've got to be careful with that because there are a lot of bogus claims against wonderful doctors," he says. "So you don't want to depend completely on the Internet because a lot of times people have citations with the board, but they may be the best surgeon in the state."

Dr. Phil makes a point that the patient should review a doctor's history and patterns. "If you've got guy who filed a complaint on you 14 years ago for whatever reason out of 15,000 people, that's different than if you punch up a doctor and they've got 147 suits on them because they forgot to put the ear back on or something," he says. 

He provides specific steps for researching a medical professional, using Dr. Masterson as an example.

  • Visit MedBD.ca.gov.
  • Click 'Check your doctor.' 
  • Scroll down and continue search.
  • Enter your doctor's name.
  • Click 'Find.'
  • Select your doctor.

Dr. Masterson acknowledges that she can be found on the registry using these steps.

"Well, she was clean," says Dr. Phil with mock disappointment.

"What they didn't see was my photo album of fibroids," Dr. Masterson says with pride, "and they should check out a doctor's surgical expertise as well."

"Absolutely. Find out what they're good at and what they're not good at," says Dr. Phil. "If there's a question on there, ask about it. If they don't want to answer it, go somewhere else."