Patient Resources You Should Know About

Learn how to search for your doctor and red flags to look out for.

By Toni Gasparis
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A Patient Who Was Violated By Her Doctor (3:17)

The position of a doctor automatically denotes trustworthiness. As a patient you go to doctors when you need help and you trust that they will help you with whatever you need. This trust is ingrained in our heads which is why, if a doctor acts inappropriately, we don't necessarily think to question it: We didn't go to medical school, so how would we know what is and isn't supposed to happen at our appointment? While a majority of doctors are trustworthy, there are some bad ones out there that could attempt to take advantage of you as a patient. This is why it is important to know your rights as a patient and to practice due diligence before even stepping foot into the doctor's office. Here are some tips to help.

What to Expect at the Doctor

Doctors are supposed to touch you in some capacity in order to diagnosis and treat you. But it is important to know where they are supposed to touch you for exams so you can be aware of inappropriate, or even illegal, behavior. For example, gynecologists are supposed to examine your vagina but with gloves and proper tools. A general practioner may examine different parts of your body, but should not be groping you or making you feel uncomfortable. If you have never been to a certain doctor before, do your research beforehand so you have an idea of what happens in a typical appointment. If at any point during your appointment the doctor strays from the approved script, ask why. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, request for the doctor to leave immediately and report him or her if needed. 

How to Research Your Doctor

Before you make an appointment with any doctors you should do your research to check that they are board-certified and haven't had any serious complaints registered against them. Doing this research ahead of time will allow you to feel more comfortable making and going to an appointment. Employees of the Federation of State Medical Boards Joe Knickrehm, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, and Lisa Robin, Chief Advocacy Officer, recommend using DocInfo.Org for research. This service is provided by the Federation and is free to consumers. It provides licensure and disciplinary information for all members, which include members of 70 medical boards. All you have to do is put in the name of the physician and the state he or she practices in and any action against him or her license will come up — this includes all reports, even if a doctor practiced in a different state. If the doctor you look up has disciplinary action reported you can click to find out all the details. If you can't find the doctor you're looking for or want even more information you can contact your individual state's medical board.

Check for Suspicious Activity

There have been stories of doctors who have secretly filmed their patients. This is illegal and unfortunately very hard to detect. Criminologist Dr. Casey Jordan says there are a few things that you might be able to look out for to detect foul play. Take a moment to look around the room before the doctor enters. Look for any lights on surfaces that shouldn't have them — like glasses, pens, or even on a wall — if someone wasn't careful this recording light is an obvious giveaway that something is not right. Look for any wires that are in strange places as they could lead to a hidden camera. Look for small holes in the wall or other places, cameras could be hiding behind them. 

If Your Doctor Violates You 

These tips should help you ensure that you are seeing a respectable and trustworthy doctor. However, if you have been violated by a medical professional in any way it is important to report it. Report it to your state's medical board so they can investigate and report it to the local police. Continue to follow up to ensure that the issue will be dealt with and seek counseling from a professional if needed.

Related: 

Dr. Oz Discusses the Civic Responsibility of Doctors

What to Expect at a Gynecologist Appointment

Abuse and Sexual Assault Resources

Article written by Toni Gasparis