If you were looking for a new doctor recently, chances are you turned to friends or family members for a recommendation. That’s a reasonable place to start, but it should hardly be the final word, says Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports’ medical director. “After all, who’s right for them may not be right for you,” she says.

1. Check insurance. Call your insurer for a list of approved doctors or ask whether the doctor you’re considering is in-network. If you’re on Medicare, look for physicians at medicare.gov/physiciancompare.
Tip: Doctors often add or drop insurance plans, so don’t rely only on your insurer’s online lists.

2. Verify credentials. Look for a board-certified provider, which means the physician meets standards set by a professional organization.
Tip: Check on a physician’s certification status.

3. Consider hospitals. The doctor you choose often determines which hospital you can go to. Your insurer’s website or medicare.gov/physiciancompare will list his or her hospital affiliations.
Tip: See our hospital ratings to see how hospitals in your area score on avoiding infections and on other measures.

More on Doctors and Other Providers

4. Look for warning signs. It’s not easy to find out about a doctor’s disciplinary history for things like sexual misconduct or substance abuse. A good place to start: docinfo.org, run by the Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents state agencies that license and discipline physicians.
Tip: If your search lists anything under “Actions,” click on the link, which should take you to a state’s website, where you may learn more about the doctor.

5. Follow the money. The government collects data on the money doctors get from drug and medical-device companies. A physician who receives large payments may be more likely to recommend a company’s device or drug, even if it might not be best for you.
Tip: The nonprofit journalism group ProPublica keeps a database of how much industry money physicians receive.

6. Check out the office. Use your first appointment as a test run. Does the doctor listen, answer questions fully, and explain your diagnosis and treatment?
Tip: Consider the whole team. Is the staff respectful and efficient? How long is the wait for a routine visit?

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the March 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.