Whether you’re looking for a pediatrician, a surgeon, or a primary care physician, which doctor you choose can make a huge difference. There are plenty of ways to find doctors in your area, but that doesn’t mean that sorting through and narrowing down your options is easy. To make the best decision for you and your family, try these four ways to find expert doctors.

Browse Online Ratings and Review Sites

A good place to start your search is online. Websites like ZocDoc and Healthgrades give patients an opportunity the read and write reviews about local doctors. On Healthgrades, you can search by the doctor’s name, the hospital near you, the procedure you need, or a certain specialty. ZocDoc lets you search for doctors by city, specialty, or insurance. For the best information, compare each doctor’s profile on both of these sites, as well as a few others. Since each website uses different criteria to rate doctors, some may be more helpful for you than others.

Ask Friends and Family for Recommendations

Of course, it can be hard to determine how fairly online reviewers have related their experiences or whether negative reviews accurately reflect a doctor’s abilities. Fortunately, most people have a network of friends, family, and coworkers who they can ask for recommendations. If a doctor has mixed reviews online, see if anyone you know has visited them before and get their take. After all, a face-to-face conversation gives you a chance to ask specific questions, and you’ll be more comfortable relying on the opinions of people you know.

Shop Around With Multiple Consultations

expert-doctorsImage via Flickr by uwhealth

Some of the most important characteristics of a great doctor don’t show up on paper, so don’t be afraid to shop around in person. Schedule consultations with multiple doctors. This allows you to get a second (and third or fourth) opinion if you need treatment for a specific condition, or judge a doctor’s bedside manner and communication skills, which can be particularly important in an obstetrician, pediatrician, or family doctor. You’ll want a doctor who seems knowledgeable and sincere, listens to you, explains things in an easy-to-understand way, and works with you towards your health goals.

Check Medical Credentials and Affiliations

Before making your final choice, take the time to check the doctor’s credentials, such a board certification. Find out what the licensure requirements are in your state and make sure your doctor has met them. Many experts have written online articles for major news outlets or contributed to scholarly publications, which could be another good sign. You should also check which hospital they are affiliated with, since the hospital’s reputation will be just as important if you need to be hospitalized.

With so many ways to research and evaluate doctors in your area, there’s no reason to settle for the first one you find. Take the time to consider all your options, and don’t be afraid to visit multiple specialists before making your choice. You deserve a doctor who offers excellent care and expertise, as well as an engaged and empathetic demeanor.