How to Choose a Doctor / Physician License Information
How to Choose a Doctor (M.D.)
I need to find a new doctor. How can I make a good choice?
The Medical Board does not provide a referral service for consumers who need to
choose a doctor. However, the following information may help you make a choice.
If you have health insurance, the first place to check is with your insurer or your
employer's benefits office. Many insurance plans limit your choice to a list of
doctors who agree to certain requirements. Many plans also require you to select
a primary care physician (PCP) from their list. The PCP is then responsible for
your care, and must make any necessary referrals to specialists or other health
If you are not limited to a specific list of doctors, you may want to check your
local yellow pages or perform an internet search. Most physicians are listed in
the telephone yellow pages and, in larger communities, they are listed by specialty.
You should consider a family physician or internal medicine specialist (internist)
to serve as your PCP to provide overall management of your health care. You also
may want to choose an obstetrician/gynecologist if you are a woman, or a pediatrician
for your children. If you are elderly, and have conditions associated with aging,
you may want to seek a specialist in geriatrics as your PCP. Regardless, be sure
your insurance will cover the doctor's services before you incur any charges.
You may want to talk with friends or co-workers about physicians they like. If this
is not feasible, most county medical
societies will give you names of physicians in your area who are in the
practice specialty you are seeking.
Once you have some names, call the doctors and ask if they are accepting new patients.
Be sure to ask whether they will accept your insurance plan (insurance plan lists
often are outdated, as physicians are added or deleted from the plan).
Ideally, you should meet the physician and discuss your health concerns while you
are well. This may be a good time to have a history and physical examination performed,
but, again, make sure your insurance will cover it. Most plans will not cover an
informal visit just to get acquainted.
Before you make an appointment, call the Medical Board or check on our website (License Search) to verify that the
doctor has a current California license.
Physician License Information:
I need some information about a doctor. Is he licensed? Has the Board disciplined
the doctor for anything?
ANYONE can obtain information from the Medical Board about whether a physician is
currently licensed in this state and whether any action has been taken against his
or her license. The Board provides this information through its website and also
maintains a Consumer Information Unit in Sacramento specifically for this purpose.
The information available through the website is the same as that available by writing
or telephoning the Consumer Information Unit. An advantage of accessing information
through the website is the unlimited number of records that may be checked out at
If you wish to call the Consumer Information Unit (800) 633-2322, it would be helpful
to have as much information as you can about the doctor, including his or her full
name, office address and the city or town where the doctor practices. Especially
with common surnames, there may be several doctors in California with the same or
very similar names. For example, you would need to provide more information before
we could verify whether Robert Smith or Karen Johnson is licensed. Because of the
large volume of calls received, callers are limited to verifying no more than three
physician names for each phone call.
Can I find out if my doctor is board certified?
Physicians can identify their practice specialty on their Medical Board profile
and that information IS available through the Breeze Online License Lookup. You
can also obtain this information by contacting the physician’s office directly,
reviewing the physician’s and/or medical group’s website, or by contacting
the local medical society if the physician is a member. Most physicians
have a practice specialty, which is the area of medicine they have received additional
training in, but not all physicians have medical specialty certification. Medical
specialty certification is a voluntary process granted by a member board of the
American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a private organization, or other equivalent
board. Board certification is not required by the Medical Board for a physician
Please use the links below to access the ABMS website and other boards recognized
by the Medical Board of California and learn more about board certification and
whether your doctor is board certified.
What if you find that disciplinary action has been taken against the doctor?
If enforcement or disciplinary action has been taken against a physician's license
by the Board, the public documents related to the action are available and posted
on the Board’s website for a period of 10 years from the date the Board obtains
the information. After 10 years, the documents are removed from the Board’s website
but are still available to the public upon request. The following documents are
available from the Board:
- Accusation: the document stating the charges the Board has filed against the physician.
- Decision: the document describing legal and factual findings and disposition of
the charges filed in the Accusation and identifying any conditions or limitations
imposed on the physician’s license.
- Suspension Orders: issued by either a Superior Court judge or administrative law
judge to suspend or limit a physician's practice immediately.
- Public Letter of Reprimand: a form of discipline that can include a requirement
for specified training or education.
- Citation: a sanction that usually includes a fine imposed by the Board for technical
violations of the law.
To obtain a copy of the documents not posted on this site, please contact the Central
File Room at (916) 263-2525 or see the following link for specific information about
how to obtain the public record documents describing the charges and the action
taken by the Board.
Before You Go
Before your initial visit to a new doctor, make a list of things you want to tell
him or her about your health history. Many offices will ask you to fill out a form,
and may want details about:
- surgeries you have had and when they occurred
- current conditions for which you are being treated
- prescription drugs you take (You may want to bring the bottles so you have correct
information about strength and dosages.)
- name and address of your previous doctor(s)
- person to contact in an emergency
- your employer's address and phone number
- your insurance company and policy number (If you have an insurance I.D. card, be
sure to bring it.)
- family medical history
A very important step is to make and take with you a list of questions you want
answered. These may include:
- the doctor's specialty or special areas of practice
- who covers the doctor's patients when he or she is not available
- whether other physicians or non-physicians such as a nurse practitioner or physician
assistant will participate in your care, and whether this is optional
- special training the doctor may have in managing any medical conditions you have
(such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.)
- whether the doctor will provide care for others in your family
- to what hospitals he or she can admit patients
- if there are any restrictions on the doctor's hospital privileges
It is important that your doctor is able to admit you to a hospital if you need
inpatient care. If he or she does not have admitting privileges, make sure you understand
how hospitalizations will be handled.
After Your Initial Visit
You should feel that you were treated courteously, that all your questions were
answered, and that you were not rushed or dismissed. Your relationship with a doctor
is one of the most intimate in life; you should be able to trust him or her with
the most private situations or problems, and should feel that your doctor is your
ally. After the initial visit, if you are satisfied with what you experienced, great.
If not, remember the choice is yours. Try another doctor. It is your health that
is at stake.