An important part of recovering from an injury or illness is choosing the right physician. In Massachusetts, there are a number of instances in which an unreliable doctor made a medication error or other mistake that had grave consequences. There may be tools in place for patients to review how trustworthy a doctor is. According to recent research, however, many people in the United States aren’t sure how to evaluate a physician.

Massachusetts offers an online report card system that enables users to see how well specific practices rate when it comes to following guidelines for certain activities. For example, a patient may be able to find out if physicians order unnecessary X-rays or if they do not abide by cancer screening guidelines. Several states have adopted the practice of comparing group practices.

Despite having these tools in place, a recent poll found that only 22 percent of Americans feel they would be able to find the right information to compare local physicians. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, which conducted the survey, found that 60 percent of respondents trust referrals from loved ones, and far fewer rely on information from sources such as the media, the government or online patient reviews.

Nationally, programs such as Medicare should produce measurements for a 160 large group practices. The poll found that the majority of respondents believe that the quality of medical care would improve if physicians had to report their outcomes. Anyone who feels they have been a victim of medical negligence should contact an attorney to explore the possibility of filing a medical malpractice claim.

Source: Montgomery Advertiser, “Check out doctors before they check you,” Lauran Neergaard and Jennifer Agiesta, Aug. 12, 2014