Illustration: Brett Ryder
"I'll poll friends for recommendations, and do a quick background search online to find out where the doctor trained and if she has any specialties. I might also check with state or county medical societies to see if there happen to be any outstanding lawsuits against her. Then I'll drop by the office to look at it. I want a doctor who is smart in her field, communicative, and available, but I also want to know: Is the office clean, does the equipment look new, and do the people in the waiting room seem like they're being treated well?"
—Nancy Snyderman, MD, chief medical editor for NBC News and author of Medical Myths That Can Kill You
"I'll look online hospitalcompare.hhs.gov] to see if the doctor has better than normal outcomes for a particular procedure and how often he or she does it. Sometimes that information is hard to find; the stats are frequently attributed to the department of the hospital, rather than a specific doctor. If that's the case, I'll call and ask to speak with the nurses who work with the doctor. They can tell me whether or not the procedure is something he or she does all the time. But if they say, 'I don't think he's done anything like that in quite a while,' that's going to give me pause."
—Sanjay Gupta, MD, chief medical correspondent for CNN and author of Chasing Life: New Discoveries in the Search for Immortality to Help You Age Less Today
"I'll ask a friend who is a nurse whom he or she has chosen for their own care. I want a doctor who can absorb information and synthesize it in a way that would improve my chances for good health or recovery from illness, and nurses know who those doctors are because they're the ones working with them day in and day out."
—Timothy Johnson, medical editor for ABC News and coeditor of Your Good Health
"I want someone who doesn't think she knows all the answers, someone who listens. If I'm looking for a specialist and it's in a field where I don't really know anybody, I'll search on the Internet for medical articles on the topic and see who's writing the papers and doing the research. For a surgeon, I want the person who knows what she's doing in the OR, so I'll ask an OR nurse or anesthesiologist for her opinion. I'm more worried about what's going to go on in there—that's all I'd care about.
—Susan Love, MD, president and medical director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, and author of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book