Ways to compare and choose doctors


By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you recommend some good resources to help me locate some quality doctors in my area? I’m looking for an orthopedic doctor for my 77-year-old mother and a new internist for me, since my doctor retired last year.

Searching Susan

Dear Susan,

Finding and researching doctors is a lot easier than it used to be. Today, there are websites that provide databases of doctors, their professional medical histories, and ratings and reviews from past patients.


A good first step is to get referrals from trusted friends and any doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals you know. You also need to call your insurer for a list of approved doctors or ask whether the doctor you’re considering is in-network.

If your mother is enrolled in original Medicare, you can use the care compare tool at Medicare.gov/care-compare. This will let you find doctors by name, medical specialty, or geographic location that accept original Medicare. If she’s enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, get a list of approved candidates.

Once you find a few doctors, call their office to verify that they still accept your insurance and if they are accepting new patients.

You should also consider hospital affiliation. Your choice of doctor can determine which hospital you go to, if needed, so find out where the doctor has admitting privileges. Then use Medicare.gov/care-compare to see how it compares with other hospitals in the area. 

Researching doctors.

After you find a few doctors you’re interested in, there are websites to help you evaluate them. For example, the Federation of State Medical Boards offers DocInfo.org to find out a doctor’s board certifications, education, states with active licenses, and whether a physician has been disciplined by a state medical board.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS Data) is also a good source for researching doctors. For example, it will help you find out how many times a doctor did a particular procedure and what they charge for it. Go to Data.CMS.gov/tools and click on “Medicare Physician & Other Practitioner Look-up Tool.” And to learn about the financial relationship that doctors have with drug and medical device companies, visit OpenPaymentsData.CMS.gov.

Other good sites for finding and researching healthcare professionals include healthgrades.com and vitals.com. Both provide substantial information on education and training, hospital affiliations, board certification, awards and recognitions, professional misconduct, disciplinary action, office locations, and accepted insurance plans. They also offer ratings from past patients on communication and listening skills, wait time, time spent with the patient, and office friendliness. But be aware that while physician ratings can be helpful, they can also be misleading and unreliable.

Send questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or at SavvySenior.org.