Sometimes, a story will show up in the news about someone posing as a healthcare provider, only to find out that this person, well, not. It is scary to think that the "doctor" operating on you, or giving you medical advice, may not be a doctor at all. Most recently, it has come to light that people may have a type of “medical” training, but will choose to provide services outside of their expertise. It would be similar to a certified nutritionist performing knee replacement surgery. Want to know something scary? Typing "does my doctor have a license" in an internet search engine will not officially tell you anything; but finding out can be that easy.
Here are a few things you can look for:
1.) Check out their diplomas:
At most clinics, healthcare providers will hang the "proof" of their training on the walls in the hallway or the consultation office. This may include a copy of their medical diploma and proof they completed residency training. You also may see plaques showing they are board certified, and any other special training. “But I don’t see a diploma!!” Whoa, relax. An active license means they have a diploma. State medical boards verify all of the education and training prior to healthcare provider practicing medicine. It is still good to look at the "wall" and know the speciality of your healthcare provider.
2.) Examine their medical license:
I'm going to go as far as saying 100% of all clinical offices or hospitals require healthcare providers to have an active license before providing services, even if its a temporary or emergency license. Licensing boards usually require providers to place a copy of their license where the patients can see it or make it available. You can check with your own eyes if the license is valid. Don't forget to look at the expiration date—oh yeah, there is an expiration date. If you don't see it and you are concerned, it's always okay to ask.
3.) Search online:
Every U.S. state has a medical board that will grant a license for a qualified healthcare provider. Check out the website of the licensing medical board for your state. This way, you can see if your healthcare provider has an active license to practice medicine before you make an appointment. These websites will allow you to do a “license verification” search at little or no cost.
Quick Note: A few minutes of researching your doctor can keep you safe. Most hospitals and medical clinics do a really good job at vetting their healthcare providers. They also want their patients to be safe. Just know, if there is ever a question in your mind, follow these simple steps to verify for yourself. Everyone has a right to have a doctor who is real…and doesn’t just play one on TV.
Dr. Gina Simone
Update: Telehealth providers are required to have the same credentials when providing virtual care and video appointments as someone you would see in the office. Although you may not be able to see the medical diploma, that information may be given to you prior to your appointment. You can also check the website of your state medical board, to make sure your provider is license in the state where you live.