Choosing & working with health care providers

“20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors”

AHRQ | Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

California Healthcare Compare

California Department of Insurance & Consumer Reports
Research the cost & quality of care at California hospitals & doctors’ groups, regional differences around the state in the cost of treating various conditions, and ways to get better care for less money.

Certification Matters

American Board of Medical Specialties
Verify that a doctor is currently board-certified. A free service; registration is required.
NOTE:  A board-certified physician has received more training than the minimum required for a license and has proven his or her competency in a medical specialty; continuing education is required to maintain certification. As most sites with physician lists depend on data reported by physicians, their information about board-certification could be inaccurate or out-of-date.

“Choosing a Doctor or Health Care Service”

On MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine

Consumers’ Checkbook

Center for the Study of Services
These guides (e.g., Bay Area Consumers’ Checkbook) list doctors, dentists, hearing aid dispensers, veterinarians, and other health care professionals who have received multiple recommendations from consumers or other professionals. Access is available via your local library’s databases (in-library access only) or by subscription.


On MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine
Locate —

“Getting a Second Opinion”

Merck Manual

“Questions to Ask Your Doctor”

AHRQ | Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Collaborate with your health care provider.

“Select License Type”

California Department of Consumer Affairs
This site lists health care professionals who are currently licensed in California, including medical doctors, osteopathic doctors, podiatrists, naturopaths, various types of therapists, dentists, nurses, psychologists, and veterinarians. Midwives and opticians are included in the Medical Board, along with MDs. Use the site to —

“Doctor-Patient Communication: Talking with Your Doctor”

National Institute on Aging
Most of these tips apply to patients of all ages despite the subtitle, “A Guide for Older People.” Read the entire guide or only what interests you:

“A Ten-Step Process to Finding a Good Doctor”

In the KevinMD blog, on MedPageToday
Includes online resources. Some steps could be omitted.

End-of-life decisions

NOTE: Also see Caregiving and Grieving.


National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Advance care planning, caregiving, hospice & palliative care, and grief & loss.

“Easy to Read Advance Directive”

Institute for Healthcare Advancement
Advance directive forms for California residents in 10 languages.

“End of Life Issues”

On MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine
Also see “Related Health Topics,” in box on right.

“Health Decisions Resources”

American Bar Association
This superb guide links to resources on initiating discussions about end-of-life care, identifying your care goals and values, keeping completed plans readily accessible, and making decisions for someone else.

Take Action: Death with Dignity around the U.S.

Death with Dignity
State-by-state information about aid-in-dying. In California and several other states, qualifying competent adults with terminal illnesses may obtain medication to end their lives.
NOTE: As an organization, PlaneTree Health Library does not take a position regarding the mission and activities of Death with Dignity. However, their site is an easily navigated resource with helpful information for individuals seeing information about aid-in-dying and related legislation.

Financial issues & insurance


National Council on Aging
Locate programs that help pay for prescription drugs, health care, food, utilities, & other basic needs. The site’s target audience is age 55+, but many programs also serve younger individuals.

Covered California

The California government’s site for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

FH Consumer Cost Lookup

FAIR Health
A national, independent nonprofit focused on helping consumers understand & manage healthcare costs & health insurance concerns.

“Free, Low-Cost, & Sliding-Scale Clinics”

Medical & dental clinic locators.

“Financial Assistance”

On MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine
Also note “Related Health Topics” in right sidebar.

“Health Insurance Guides”
In-depth articles for consumers (including uninsured patients). More information, especially on medical billing and coding, can be gleaned from the website’s videos for students.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
The U.S. government’s site for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“HICAP | Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program”

Knowledgeable volunteers help Santa Clara County (CA) residents identify, understand, and evaluate Medicare and other insurance options.

“Introduction to Health Care in America”

Brookings Institute via the Khan Academy
A series of videos explaining Medicare, Medicaid, copays & deductibles, drug tiers & formularies, medical billing, and other financial aspects of health care in the U.S.


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Finding & evaluating medical information

“Evaluating Internet Health Information”

National Library of Medicine
The graphics may be dated, but this guidance for evaluating the trustworthiness of a health website is just as clear, helpful, and relevant now as when the video was new.

Health Web Navigator

A guide to health and medical information websites, created by a nonprofit organization.

“Making Sense of Medical News”

Nemours Foundation

“Medical Dictionary”

The Free Dictionary by Farlex
Brief explanations are typically followed by extensive information. Content is based upon reputable reference works.

“Our Review Criteria”
Learn the characteristics common to well-informed, carefully written health & medical news articles. Few articles in the popular media meet all ten criteria; even stories from the most well-known news organizations may misrepresent the results of scientific studies and/or fail to provide sufficient context.

Check the truth of health “facts” you hear from friends, advertisements, or popular media.

Locating services & resources

2-1-1 Santa Clara County

United Way of Silicon Valley
Community resources in Santa Clara County, California.

Federal Health Information Centers and Clearinghouses

Extensive directory of federal agencies providing information & services.

“Find a Library”

On MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine
Locate U.S. & Canadian libraries providing health & medical information to the public.


On MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine
Locate patient, professional, and governmental organizations devoted to particular health concerns (e.g., aphasia, assistive devices, or antibiotics).

“Resource Connection”

Community resources for adults in Santa Clara County, California.


Consumer Product Safety Commission

Read safety tips
Identify recalled products
File an unsafe product report

“MedWatch Voluntary Report”

FDA | U.S. Food & Drug Administration
If use of a medication, supplement, medical device, cosmetic, food, or beverage leads to an adverse event (serious drug side effect, therapeutic failure, or product use error) or if there are significant problems with its quality, you are asked to report the problem to the FDA. Report problems with vaccines here.

“Patient Safety”

On MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine
Also note “Related Health Topics” in right sidebar.