Have you ever considered doing a background check on physicians to make sure they have a positive history of patient satisfaction and professional expertise? In a recent Washington Post article, Michael Carome, director of the health research group at Public Citizen in Washington DC, offered advice on how patients can best vet their doctors before booking an appointment.

Here, Real Health breaks down Carome’s helpful tips into four simple steps:

Check online for your state’s medical board.
Most of these agencies allow you to search for a doctor’s license and view a list of disciplinary actions taken against the physician that resulted in the suspension or probation of the doc’s license. Some states may even show you the types of payments your doctor dispensed in previous medical malpractice lawsuits.

Order reports on physicians through DocInfo.org. This paid service of the Federation of State Medical Boards charges $9.95 to look up your doctors’ medical school, year of graduation, license history, board specialties and any disciplinary actions taken against them.

Check out Healthgrades.com.
This for-profit company provides free doctors’ reviews collected directly from their patients. The site also contains information about physicians provided by Medicare and Medicaid services, as well as state medical boards.

Visit Dollars for Doctors.
If you’re concerned about your doctor’s business ethics, this ProPublica-run site scopes out whether or not your provider is influenced by pharmaceutical companies. Use the site to see if your doc has received any drug company money, and, if so, how much. Dollars for Doctors also allows you to check out your doc’s prescribing habits. For example, it will show you how regularly your doctor prescribes drugs with special risks, or how often your doc prescribes brand-name drugs and what the average prescription cost per patient is for these meds.

And while you’re sleuthing, check the records of doctors you may need to treat your children. Surveys show that nearly half of all pediatricians and 77 percent of pediatric trainees make regular diagnostic mistakes. Click here for more information.