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Have you ever wondered if your doctor is completely trustworthy? Perhaps you’re shopping around for a new physician and aren’t sure how to go about vetting the names you’ve gotten from your neighbor or co-worker.

It used to be that people inherently trusted their doctors, but the public has become much more aware of medical malpractice. Stories of botched plastic surgery, birth injuries and surgical errors are common news items that have made patients much more scrupulous. So where can a person find the background information they need to make an informed choice about their health care providers?

One good place for Cleveland residents to start is the website of the State Medical Board of Ohio. There you can search for individual doctor’s licenses. (Non-Ohio residents can check their own state’s medical board website.) Not all state medical boards will offer exactly the same information, but you can often find history on past medical malpractice lawsuits and other black spots. Bear in mind, however, that these records typically only list settled cases. Investigations or lawsuits currently underway aren’t likely to show up.

Still skeptical after not finding any dirt on your doctor? The Federation of State Medical Boards offers reports for about $10 per search of individual physicians. These reports offer everything from medical school graduation dates to alternate names and disciplinary actions against him or her.

These aren’t the only avenues for scoping out your doctor in advance. Many doctors have readily available online profiles, where you can read patient reviews (with a grain of salt of course — sometimes even good treatment goes unappreciated by patients who aren’t entirely trustworthy themselves).

If you’re reading this blog, you may have already fallen victim to medical malpractice. When the damage has already been done, the next professional to contact is a personal injury attorney who focuses on holding doctors accountable for their past mistakes and ensuring that patients are properly compensated.