Journalism in the Public Interest

How To Investigate Doctors

Patients often select doctors based on recommendations from family and friends, distance from their house, or participation in their health insurer’s network. Knowing whether a doctor has been sanctioned by a professional licensing board should be another essential part of your search.

Doctors can be disciplined for criminal convictions, medical negligence, wrongly prescribing controlled substances and other wrongdoing.

Even with a disciplinary record, many doctors continue to practice, some even changing states to do so. Although hospitals have access to a federal database to look up the disciplinary histories of doctors in every state, the public cannot access it. To find information about a doctor, the best place to start is your state medical board's license lookup page. Each state has a different process for looking up doctors and getting disciplinary records, if there are any. Some states provide full disciplinary histories, including legal documents about violations and subsequent board actions, online. Others charge a fee or require a public records request.

In addition, for a $9.95 fee, the Federation of State Medical Boards will provide the disciplinary history of specific doctors in every state. You have to fill out a form and pay a fee to access the record. For non-disciplinary license information, you can also look up doctors in Administrators In Medicine's DocFinder, however only 17 states participate.

We compiled the chart below to show you how to look up a doctor's license online and obtain any related disciplinary documents in each state. Unless otherwise noted, disciplinary documents can be accessed on a doctor's license verification page.

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State (click to look up a doctor) Full disciplinary history available? How to contact state medical boards Lists of recent board actions