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Patient Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I file a complaint against my physician?

The AMA is an organization that promotes the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. Although the AMA absolutely supports the principles of competent, compassionate, ethical care and excellent patient-physician communication, we are not an organization that is authorized to review individual patient complaints.

To file a complaint about your physician, please contact your state medical licensing board, which can review physicians’ conduct at the local level and has authority to take action against a physician’s license to practice medicine. Your state medical society can be another helpful resource.

All members of the AMA pledge to uphold the Code of Medical Ethics, which sets out standards of conduct that define the essentials of honorable professional behavior for the physician. The AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) reviews the membership of physicians who have been disciplined by their state licensing boards.

AMA Code of Medical Ethics

Can I find out if a physician has had complaints against him/her in the past?

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) provides a service known as DocInfo that provides information about disciplinary actions against a physician for a fee of approximately $10.

In addition, some state medical licensing boards may provide information about disciplinary actions. Some states provide this information for free; others charge modest fees.

How do I complain about the care I received during my hospital stay?

The AMA is an organization that promotes the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. Although the AMA supports the principles of competent, compassionate, ethical care and excellent patient-physician communication, we are not an organization that is authorized to review specific complaints about care.

Complaints about hospitals should be directed to the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals throughout the United States:

Joint Commission
601 13th Street NW
Suite 1150N
Washington, DC 20005

Complaint hotline: (800) 994-6610
E-mail: complaint@jointcommission.org
Web site: www.jointcommission.org

For complaints about health plans or health insurers, contact America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)

For complaints about nonphysician health care professionals—such as dentists, optometrists, psychologists, or nurses—contact the professional organization that represents the specific health care professional (e.g., American Dental Association). Your state medical licensing board can also direct you to the department that regulates these health professionals in your state.

How do I find a physician?

The AMA cannot recommend individual physicians. However, you can use AMA’s DoctorFinder to search for physicians by name, location, or specialty.

DoctorFinder lists nearly all of the more than 650,000 physicians who are licensed to practice in the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico, whether or not the individual is a member of the AMA.  The list covers both doctors of medicine (MD) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO).

To locate a physician:

  1. Go to AMA’s DoctorFinder
  2. Enter the security words shown on your screen
  3. Click on “For Patients”
  4. Click on “DoctorFinder”
  5. Read the terms and conditions and click on “Accept”
  6. Enter either the name of the physician you want to locate or the state and specialty you’re looking for
  7. When you search for a particular physician, the individual’s name will be listed if he or she is an AMA member. If you don’t see the physician’s name, click on “View Nonmember Listings.”
  8. When you search by state and specialty, your search will return a list of AMA member physicians in that state and specialty. What about nonmembers?

Physicians who are members of the AMA help support causes that affect your health, such as increasing access to care, improving public health, and eliminating health disparities. Member physicians pledge to uphold the AMA Code of Medical Ethics.

When choosing your physician, make sure he or she supports quality patient care and the future of our nation’s health.

I am seeking medical advice about _________________.

If you are looking for information about a specific health concern, please contact your physician. If you do not have a physician, you may locate a licensed physician in your area by using the AMA’s DoctorFinder .

If you are looking for general information about a medical condition, a good source is the National Library of Medicine. Their Web site offers up-to-date information and access to free searches of medical databases, including the NLM’s own MedLine database.

National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894

Phone: (888) 346-3656
Web site: www.nlm.nih.gov

How can I find out if my doctor is giving me the appropriate medical care or treatment?

If you have questions about your care it is appropriate to seek a second opinion from another physician. The AMA does not give specific medical advice. However, national medical specialty societies establish practice standards and may be able to assist you in finding medical information related to your condition. You may wish to use the AMA’s DoctorFinder to locate another physician in your area to consult.

The AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics encourages patients to obtain a second opinion when either the patient or the physician feels it is appropriate.

How do I obtain my medical records?

In most cases, you can request your records directly from your doctor or from the hospital medical records department. (Some records, such as information specific to cancer, are kept by the hospital’s pathology department.) Keep in mind that offices may only keep records for a certain amount of time as required by the individual state. You should call the office to make sure your records are still on file.

All hospitals and most doctors’ offices have a “release of information” form that you can use to request your medical records. In many cases, instead of using a form you can simply send a letter that includes information to identify your records:

  • Your birth date
  • Your full name (including information about any name changes)
  • Time frame when you were seen (for example, July 1998 to September 2000)
  • The specific types of information you want sent to you (such as reports from a brain scan, your cholesterol levels, etc.)

You can have your records sent directly to you or directly to a health professional. If you have records sent to a health professional, let the professional know to expect the files.

You may also want to think about creating an electronic personal health record (PHR). Information about personal health records is available from several sources, such as the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or Microsoft HealthVault. Please note that the AMA is not affiliated with any of these organizations, does not endorse any of their health products, and is not liable for any information they may provide.

How can I get answers to questions about the bill I received from my doctor?

As a first step, you should try to resolve your concern by asking your physician to explain your bill. If your concern cannot be resolved, you may also consider contacting the state medical licensing board, state medical society, county grievance board, or the Better Business Bureau to register a complaint.

State medical licensing boards and state medical societies can provide valuable information. You can reach the Better Business Bureau at:

Council of Better Business Bureaus
4200 Wilson Blvd. (Suite 800)
Arlington, VA  222203-1804
Phone: (703) 276-0100

What is the AMA's policy on ______________________?

AMA’s PolicyFinder allows you to search the AMA website for policy on specific topics. You can use keywords or categories to search for AMA policies on your subject.